Dean, Faculty of Radiation Oncology
Funding of Radiation Therapy
The priority area for the Faculty in 2016 was to engage with the Department of Health on the reviews of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and the Radiation Oncology Health Program Grants (ROHPG) Scheme. Through the Faculty’s MBS Review Working Group, we have provided advice to the Oncology Clinical Committee of the MBS Review Taskforce.
We are yet to see the final report from the Oncology Clinical Committee and the proposed changes to the radiation oncology schedule. There is also uncertainty about the implementation of any proposed MBS changes and its impact on the sector. The Faculty will continue to advocate for the best possible funding model for the sector.
The ROHPG Scheme has been instrumental in providing patient access to modern, up-to-date radiation oncology equipment. The Department of Health conducted a review of the ROHPG scheme in 2016, and provided a report to the Faculty, which was positive in general. However, the proposed changes to ROHPG scheme announced in the most recent Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook were disappointing and could adversely affect patient access to modern radiation therapy in the long term. They represent a significant withdrawal by the Commonwealth from funding vital radiation therapy equipment such as brachytherapy units, treatment planning systems and CT simulators. The Faculty has prepared a submission to the Health Minister to raise our concerns regarding the proposed changes and its implications for the radiation oncology sector and patient care.
The Faculty convenes an annual Industry Roundtable, which provides an opportunity for industry stakeholders to meet and discuss new and evolving technologies and techniques in the radiation therapy sector. On 2 December 2016, the Industry Roundtable was held in the College, and attracted more than 20 participants.
A number of issues were discussed at the Roundtable, including the review of the MBS and ROHPG Scheme, proton therapy in Australia, raising the profile of radiation oncology, as well as radiation oncology in developing countries. Feedback received indicates that most of the industry representatives perceive the Faculty as important to their organisations and regard the Industry Roundtable a very useful forum. The Faculty will continue to engage with industry stakeholders to share information and seek their input where needed.
Raising the profile of radiation oncology is one of the Faculty’s key strategic priorities. We continue to reach many cancer patients and their families, as well as health professionals, in particular GPs through the Radiation Oncology Targeting Cancer campaign, to increase awareness of radiation therapy as an effective, safe and sophisticated treatment for cancer.
Recent evidence from the Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment Trial (ProtecT) shows that modern radiation therapy is as effective as surgery to cure prostate cancer. There is also no difference in overall quality of life between radiation therapy and surgery, but less urinary incontinence and fewer sexual problems after radiation therapy. In light of this, the Faculty will focus our awareness raising efforts in 2017 on advocating for prostate cancer patients to receive adequate information on all available options before making a final decision on their treatment.
It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the recent passing of Sally Crossing AM (1946-2016) on 28 December 2016, after a long and brave battle with breast cancer.
Sally has been a strong consumer advocate for people affected by cancer over many years following her own diagnosis with breast cancer in 1995. One of her countless contributions was as the consumer member of the Faculty of Radiation Oncology Council in 2015 and 2016. The College is indebted to Sally for her active involvement, keen interest and contribution in support of our work and our patients – including advocating for the continuation of the Australian Clinical Dosimetry Service, the implementation of the Radiation Oncology Practice Standards, and appropriate funding to ensure patient access to radiation therapy.
Sally will be sadly missed; however her legacy will live on and continue to influence consumer engagement. Our thoughts and best wishes are with Sally’s family and loved ones.