By Jessica Sparks
Doubt has been cast over when Wollongong Hospital can expect its promised PET scanner, with revelations an order for the machine has not even been placed.
It has been 12 months since the State Government promised a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner to the Illawarra, after community support saw a 30,000-signature petition calling for the scanner presented to NSW Parliament.
After questions about the lack of progress were raised in June this year, the Government announced a preferred tenderer had been selected and the machine would be installed within six months.
However, in an answer to a parliamentary question last sitting week, Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner has revealed contractual arrangements are yet to be finalised and an order for the scanner has not been made.
The Minister has also admitted that once the order is made, the lead-time for the delivery of the machine is another 12 to 16 weeks.
With just 11 weeks left in this year, the Government’s own timetable for installing the machine has been called into question, Member for Shellharbour Anna Watson said today.
“Despite the misleading impressions the NSW Government has attempted to give the community, the facts are that no order for the scanner has even been placed yet,” Ms Watson said.
“It is now extremely unlikely that the NSW Government will be able to meet its own deadline to have the PET scanner delivered and installed at Wollongong Hospital.
“I urge the NSW Government to conclude contractual negotiations as a matter of urgency so the PET scan machine can be ordered, built and installed and the promises to our local community kept”, Ms Watson said.
Member for Kiama, Gareth Ward said he was annoyed at the claims, describing them as an ‘attempt at a cheap headline’ when, he said the NSW Government still intended to deliver the machine.
However, Mr Ward was unable to deny the process had been delayed by ‘probity issues’ with the contract, which he said would result in a 4-8 week setback on the 6-month timeframe he had previously announced.
“Transparency doesn’t always result in brevity. That’s been an issue,” Mr Ward said.
“I’d like to have seen this process move a whole lot quicker than it has. There’s been a number of issues with contract.”
President of Illawarra Cancer Carers, Ian Mackay, who organised the petition for the scanner last year, said he was disappointed the process had been deferred.
“The original timeline we were told meant the PET scanner should have been ordered well before now and operating by the end of this year,” Mr Mackay said.
“Contracts should have been signed in August. But not only does it take up to 16 weeks to be delivered once it gets ordered, but we then have to allow another 4-6 weeks for the hospital to install it.
“Only then, so still possibly 22 weeks away, will it be available for the 400 Illawarra patients who need the PET scan each year,” he said.
“We’re not sure when it’s all going to happen now. Hopefully soon, because the community support for it has been massive. But who knows.”