$800,000 investment will cut travel for cancer patients


4 February 2020


The announcement of a new chemotherapy and infusion unit for Whanganui Hospital will mean no more trips to Palmerston North for some cancer patients.


Health minister David Clark included $800,000 funding for the unit last week when he revealed $300 million of capital investment in New Zealand’s district health boards.


Just how many Whanganui cancer patients will benefit is yet to be decided as the new unit is still in the concept stage.


“The infusion therapy unit will deliver chemotherapy and other infusion services at Whanganui Hospital, and this has been an aspiration for the district health board for some years,” said a DHB spokesman.


“Currently, patients have to go to Palmerston North Hospital and the development of a local unit will eventually mean an end to such travel for a number of patients.”


WDHB chief executive Russell Simpson said he was delighted to get the project approved _ along with $2 million funding for an expansion of the Waimarino Health Centre in Raetihi.


“Both projects will provide great benefit to the community and are in keeping with the DHB’s vision of ‘Thriving Communities -- He Hāpori Ora’,” he said.


In making the announcement last week, Mr Clark said regional services and improving access had been identified as priority areas for the government with the aim being “a more equitable health system which delivers for all New Zealanders”.


Currently, Whanganui patients have about 780 chemotherapy treatments a year undertaken by MidCentral DHB at Palmerston North Hospital.


The Whanganui DHB spokesman said the proposal was closely aligned with the theme “care closer to home” as it would reduce travel for patients, their whānau and DHB staff.


“This will help to alleviate the stress of travel, especially while feeling the effects of treatments, where to park, financial costs associated with travel and supporting family at home while patients and supports are away.


“Chemotherapy closer to home will reduce time spent away from home and family, and increase independence for patients. However, for clinical reasons, not all Whanganui patients will be suitable for treatment at the new unit.”


Patients and their whānau had played an essential role in the project’s development, he said, adding that the concept of a satellite site at Whanganui had been presented to both Whanganui and MidCentral DHB boards and recognised as a goal for the future.


As the project develops, one decision will be whether to have a purpose-built unit or to revamp an existing building. Initially, MidCentral staff will be used at the unit as Whanganui staff get trained up.


The spokesman said the project reflected Whanganui DHB’s commitment to achieving equity in health outcomes for Māori.