Topics: $68 million to support the establishment of Australia’s first Proton Beam Therapy facility; Budget
Let’s talk to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Greg, thanks for joining us today.
What was it that you decide to put this beam here in Adelaide?
Well South Australia was the most advanced of the proposals. SAHMRI had done a tremendous job, so the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.
It’s something that both myself and the Prime Minister had talked about as just a deeply desirable piece of advanced cancer treatment equipment for Australia.
It hasn’t been in Australia, it is overseas. And this can help save and protect lives. South Australia, through SAHMRI put forward a good case.
I know that Simon Birmingham and Nicole Flint argued intensely for it, Nick Xenophon, to his credit, did as well, and then SAHMRI on behalf of the South Australian people.
So all of those elements went into it, but frankly, the answer is very simple, the South Australian SAHMRI proposal was the most advanced in the country.
Now the State Government, as I understand it, are going to put in $44 million as well. So this means it’s fully funded and when can it start?
So it should be up and ready by 2020. Now, we’d prefer it to be earlier but that’s just the time it’s going to take to build a facility and then to get in place this world leading equipment.
It’s something early on in my time as the Innovation and Science Minister I saw and I thought this is odd that Australia does not have one of the global breakthrough technologies for cancer treatment, particularly for childhood brain cancers.
And it won’t solve everything but it’s a very important part of both the research and the treatment for many previously incurable or untreatable cancers.
And then you have the strong case from the SA Health and Medical Research Institute and support from people such as Simon Birmingham and Nicole Flint and Senator Xenophon, put all of that together and the case is very strong.
Alright, now this is going to bring in as I understand it the degree of what’s often called medical tourism. You might want to expand on that?
Sure. Some use that term. I prefer to talk about international oncology treatment for the simple reason that nobody does tourism for cancer reasons. They go to where they can get their treatment.
And you have roughly 10,000 people who come to Australia a year for different types of therapy. It could be coronary, it could pulmonary which is lungs, it could be oncology which is cancer and 15,000 Australians who go overseas.
Fewer people will need to go overseas and more will come to Australia. So this is about treating Australians.
It’s also about treating people internationally. What I regard as the first of these centres which is both research and treatment and the more research the more ability we’ll have to save young people, these beautiful kids.
I met only yesterday with the father of a young girl with a very very difficult brain cancer and it just reminds you why these things matter more than anything else.
If you say where is investing Commonwealth money more justifiable than anywhere else, helping kids with what might otherwise be a terrible disease.
That’s a great story for SA. While I’ve got you there, we’ve got the Budget in a couple of days time, actually tomorrow night, are we expecting any major announcements in health or do we all know exactly what’s going to happen for the next 12 months?
No, it’s going to be a strong health budget. I can say that confidently. And we’ve been working with the medical profession to lay the foundations for investment in the future.
And so we’ve been working with the AMA and the College of GPs, the Pharmacy Guild and Medicines Australia and the Generic Medicines Association, and all of those have been extremely cooperative.
I think we’ll have the basis with each of them or the first truly long term national health plan that will come out of the Budget.
And in the end that’s about patients, access to medicines, cheaper medicines, access to doctors and affordable care from doctors.