TWO of the driving forces behind the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre were recognised for their efforts on Thursday.
The final meeting of the Shoalhaven Linear Accelerator Fundraising Committee (LINAC) saw chairman Paul Dean and the late Dr Ray Cleary honoured with a plaque in the foyer of the centre, simply entitled “Two men had a dream”.
The plaque honours Mr Dean and Dr Cleary’s vision and drive to have a cancer care centre built in the Shoalhaven.
From humble beginnings in 2004, through sheer doggedness and with the backing of the Shoalhaven community $1.8 million was fundraised locally for the centre.
Federal Government funding of just over $34 million saw the centre become a reality.
Two linear accelerators are now operating, treating more than 300 patients a year. Chemotherapy, medical oncology and hematology services are also available.
The committee handed over its final funding donation to the centre, $6002.59, on Thursday to conclude its final meeting.
Mr Dean was totally surprised by the plaque unveiling.
“We first met back in 2004, it seems so long ago,” he said.
“We now have a world class facility, something way beyond our expectations when we started.
“We were fairly naive and fairly uninformed in some ways but we had a desire to bring radiation therapy to the Shoalhaven.
“We established a committee and have been astounded by its success.”
We have a world class facility, something way beyond our expectations when we started.Shoalhaven Linear Accelerator Fundraising Committee chairman Paul Dean
Along with Mr Dean and Dr Cleary, the original committee included Peter Dun, Mark Crowther, Janice Tanner, Dick Guthrie, Kevin Roberts, Dot Beaupert and Franz Maringer. Then Mayor Greg Watson was inaugural chairman.
Unfortunately only five of the original members remain.
“It took a little while to get traction into the fundraising but by 2009 we had raised the original $1 million we had set as our goal,” Mr Dean said.
$1.1 million raised by the committee was allocated to build 10 accommodation units as part of the facility.
“From there we have raised another $750,000 and all up we have raised about $1.85 million,” he said.
“It was an incredible effort by virtually thousands of people in the community who really wanted a radiation therapy unit in Shoalhaven, saw a need for it, and were prepared to go out and raise fund to get it.
“I think that community support was critical to bringing the centre to the Shoalhaven. If we hadn’t done that I think it’s unlikely it would have happened.”
As of March this year two linear accelerator machines have been operating at the centre, something Mr Dean said they never dreamt of.
“As I said, naively we just wanted radiation therapy in the city and to have this sort of facility with that sort of treatment capacity has been astounding,” he said.
He said it was a shame Dr Cleary, who passed away in February 2005 due to cancer, hadn’t survived to see his dream come to fruition.
“Ray was great loss to the driving force of the centre but in his memory we continued on,” he said.
Director of cancer services at the centre, Anthony Arnold paid credit to both Dr Cleary and Mr Dean.
“I can categorically say without the insight and early planning of Paul and Ray and the committee we would not be standing here today,” he said.
“We first started dealing with Paul, Ray and the committee in 2006.
“We were aware of some statewide planning but unfortunately Shoalhaven wasn’t at the top of the list for a co-ordinated service.
I can categorically say without the insight and early planning of Paul and Ray and the committee we would not be standing here today.Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre director of cancer services Anthony Arnold
“There was nothing available on the Mid North Coast of NSW so we knew we were probably second in line with the development there and that rang true. But Kevin Rudd’s $560 million regional cancer care initiative was the real opening for us to go into partnership. We got a grant of just over $34 million
“I can categorically say without the insight and early planning of Paul and Ray and the committee we would not be standing here today.”
Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre timeline
- 2004 - June - Plan launched to provide cancer care centre including radiotherapy in the Shoalhaven. Shoalhaven Linear Accelerator Fundraising Committee (LINAC) formed with the aim of raising $1 million from the community for the facility.
- 2006 - New director of Cancer Services Illawarra Shoalhaven, Anthony Arnold starts talks with Shoalhaven City Council over the project.
- 2009 - December - Fundraising passes the $1 million mark.
- 2010 -Federal Government announces $560 million Cancer Care Plan. The Shoalhaven centre is announced as one of three locations in NSW to get a cancer care centre and received $34.2 million.
- 2012 - $1.1 million raised by Shoalhaven Linear FundraisingCommittee allocated to build 10 accommodation units as part of the facility.
- 2013 - September - Fundraising committee members and community groups get to tour the new facility.
- 2013 - October - Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre opens. Chemotherapy starts. Deb Weeks of Sanctuary Point the first patient. December - Radiotherapy starts in December, Jennifer Stewart the first patient.
- 2013 - November - Health Minister Jillian Skinner, South Coast MP Shelley Hancock and Kiama MP Gareth Ward officially open the $36 million World ClassShoalhaven Cancer Care Centre.
- 2014 - February - The centre is fully open.
- 2015 - June - NSW Government pledges $5 million for second linear accelerator. Shoalhaven Linear Fundraising Committee donates $750,000 towards an enhanced second linear accelerator.
- 2015 – August – Cancer centre tops international design awards
- 2016 – June - Second second linear accelerator installed.
- 2017 - March - Second linear accelerator begins treatment at the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre.
- 2017 - June - The winding up meeting of the Shoalhaven Linear Accelerator Fundraising Committee (LINAC).
He said the facilities at the Shoalhaven centre were world class.
“The second linear accelerator has been running since March and it is the fifth in the region,” he said.
“It is a state of the art linear accelerator. It offers the most up to date, state of the art radiotherapy techniques you will find anywhere in the world today.
“Again without the contribution of three quarters of a million dollars from the committee we probably wouldn’t have that device.
“It started operation on March 6, so we now have the two machines delivering treatment.”
On average the machines are treating between 45 and 55 patients a day, five days a week.
Ray was great loss to the driving force of the centre but in his memory we continued on.Shoalhaven Linear Accelerator Fundraising Committee chairman Paul Dean
“The value of having a local facility can be demonstrated by the fact the year prior to this centre opening their was about 250 patients choosing to have radiation treatment at Wollongong,” Mr Arnold said.
“They were choosing to travel up to Wollongong every day. They travelled over 250,000 kilometres as a group.
“In the first year of operation here, this facility treated over 330 new cases of treatment.
“That shows the value added to the community and the community’s health and wellbeing of having local services.
“And that’s again a testament to these two men who had a dream.
“We have a comprehensive public health facility which also provides chemotherapy, medical oncology and hematology services.”
According to Mr Arnold the Shoalhaven based facility has also had its flow on effects, attracting some world class medical doctors and technicians.
“That was a point of concern from both state and federal governments, with all these cancers centres going in across Australian, how would the workforce cope?” he said.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have a building of this stature and design to attract some of the best medical workforce along with allied health, radiotherapy and nursing staff. It’s been a real attraction point to the region and value adding to the community.”