The Illawarra is celebrating after a 10-year fight for a crucial machine to detect cancers was won last week.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward announced last Thursday in NSW Parliament that Wollongong Hospital would get a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner, to the rapturous cheers but also tears of about 30 Illawarra Cancer Carers volunteers.
The group had tabled a petition with more than 30,000 signatures for the scanner and, in a rare show of bipartisan support, the region’s Liberal and Labor MPs, including Mr Ward, Wollongong MP Noreen Hay, Heathcote MP Lee Evans, Keira MP Ryan Park and Shellharbour MP Anna Watson worked together to secure the result. All spoke in support of the decision.
A PET scanner detects cancers and disease faster and more accurately than other machines, but without one at Wollongong Hospital, patients have had to travel to Sydney for a scan.
The scanner will be at Wollongong Hospital, run by a private operator but funded by the Government for public inpatients. A tender process for the scanner has begun.
Illawarra Cancer Carers’ Keith Wilson said they went to Parliament thinking there would be some promises and ‘‘we might still be talking about it in a couple of years’ time’’.
‘‘We were really happy that it came good and we’ll be getting the machine,’’ he said.
‘‘The carers were in tears and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or cheer. It was a great feeling and we’re really happy the people of the Illawarra got behind us. It’s a victory for everyone.’’
Mr Wilson thanked local MPs for their united effort and Mr Ward in particular.
Mr Ward, who lost a grandfather and uncle to cancer, said there should be more bipartisanship.
‘‘No matter what colour banner we hold in Macquarie Street, when our region needs something as important as this, I’m almost disappointed people are surprised we’re bipartisan,’’ he said.
‘‘What matters most is the result, in no small part due to people like Keith [Wilson], people like [Illawarra PET committee chair] Fay Campbell, [Professor] Phil Clingan and all Illawarra and South Coast MPs working together,’’ Mr Ward said.
Ms Hay said it was outstanding that Wollongong Hospital was set to receive such a vital cancer detection asset.
Mt Warrigal resident Pat Wright, whose husband David died of bowel cancer in March 2011, was thrilled. The couple travelled to Liverpool Hospital in 2010 so Mr Wright could have a PET scan.
‘‘I am so happy about that for the people that need it,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s such a good machine. I’m so pleased, Dave would’ve been pleased too.’’