The State Government will fast-track an upgrade of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital’s positron emission tomography (PET) machine that will halve the time it takes to scan a patient for cancer.
Health Minister Jim McGinty said the new cutting-edge cancer detecting technology would allow doctors to double the number of patients screened for the deadly disease and significantly reduce waiting times.
Mr McGinty said the Government would either lease or purchase the new technology required to upgrade the hospital’s PET machine to a PET/Computer Tomography (CT) scanner.
“A PET/CT scan accurately obtains three dimensional images of a patient’s body, which can reveal irregularities inside human tissue,” he said.
“Doctors will be able to detect cancer in its earliest form, pinpoint the exact location, and determine the best way to remove the tumour and treat the affected area.
“Another advantage is that scanning a patient with a PET/CT machine takes just 15-20 minutes, compared with 30-85 minutes with existing technology, so the hospital can diagnose twice as many patients every week.
“It means hundreds of Western Australians with cancer will no longer have to wait for months for their scans.”
The Minister said funding had been approved to acquire the new technology, which would cost about $1.8million.
It was hoped the new PET/CT machine would be up and running by March, 2006.
In the interim, SCGH has extended the hours of operation of the existing PET service to cater for the increasing demand.
“We have employed additional staff to operate the PET service for an extra two hours on weekdays, as well as on Saturdays, so the 400 people currently waiting for a PET scan in WA will be seen sooner rather than later,” Mr McGinty said.
The PET service started up in WA in November 2002 and 10-12 patients are scanned each day.
Once the new PET/CT machine is operational, 20-22 patients will be able to be scanned per day.
Mr McGinty said he had written to Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott seeking additional licenses for PET machines in WA to expand the service.
He said he had also asked Mr Abbott to review the guidelines for what types of cancer scans were rebateable under Medicare.
“The Commonwealth currently lists only 13 indications for PET scans that are covered by Medicare,” Mr McGinty said.
“In recent years more data has emerged resulting in PET scans being used for many more cancer indications and we believe the Commonwealth’s guidelines need urgent review.”
The Minister said the PET/CT initiative came on top of the Gallop Government’s $30million commitment to provide world-class cancer care throughout WA, which would include the construction of the State Cancer Centre at SCGH.
The Government last month announced plans to invest an extra $890million to build new hospitals, upgrade existing hospitals and open an additional 800 beds.
“Our 10-year health blueprint will give WA the finest health system in the nation and deliver health care closer to where people live,” Mr McGinty said.
Minister's office: 9220 5000