A new linear accelerator has replaced an older machine and significantly improved the capacity for treating cancer patients at Palmerston North Hospital’s Regional Cancer Treatment Service.
The new cancer treatment machine was officially opened on Thursday 2 July by Cabinet Minister and MP for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway with a small ceremony in the hospital’s Radiation Oncology department.
The state-of-the-art linear accelerator (LINAC) was installed in February when a section of the bunker roof was removed and the machine was craned in through the top of the building. Commissioning of the LINAC was completed at the end of May when it started operating clinically.
It is the first of two replacements at Palmerston North Hospital and the funding for the new machines comes from the $25 million announced by the Government last year, which was allocated for the replacement of 12 LINACs throughout the country.
MidCentral DHB Cancer Screening, Treatment and Support Clinical Executive Dr Claire Hardie said the new LINAC meant the service was now on par with anywhere else in the world using the most modern techniques possible.
“This new machine, the first replacement of our current Siemens fleet of LINACs, enables us to deliver more efficient radiation treatment to the people of the MidCentral district, as well as the regional patients we serve from Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Whanganui and Wairarapa,” she said.
“Instead of treating 20 to 25 patients per day on a single LINAC, on this new machine we can now treat up to 35. We know our patients will now be getting quicker, more efficient treatment.”
The Honourable Iain Lees-Galloway visited Palmerston North Hospital for the opening and said this replacement was part of the first tranch of work under the New Zealand Cancer Action Plan 2019-2029, which was launched last year.
“These new linacs are to replace old, out-of-date machines, and will deliver cutting-edge radiation treatment for many people with cancer around New Zealand,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.
“We know that radiation therapy is one of the most effective tools to treat cancer, and that it can dramatically improve outcomes. It would be an important step towards our goal of safe, effective, and sustainable radiation oncology services.
“Your new LINAC will be faster and more accurate, with fewer side effects, and will help more people in less time. The new LINAC will treat up to 35 people a day, which as we’ve heard is 10 more than the current machines can treat. This will significantly improve health outcomes for people living with cancer in the central North Island.”
The bunker that houses the new LINAC was gifted the name ‘Rehua’ from Pae Ora Paiaka Whaiora Māori, which meant it was named after the Red Star in the Scorpius Constellation, who is the overseer of healing, Dr Hardie said.
“We know that within the month we’ve been using this machine, this healing has already been felt and the name and its meaning has resonated with some patients during their treatment.”