MORE than a year after 30,000 Illawarra residents signed a petition asking the state government to provide the region with a PET scanner, the $2.5 million machine has arrived at Wollongong Hospital.
Illawarra Cancer Carers volunteers celebrated at the hospital last Friday after the scanner arrived on a truck.
Private operator Healthcare Imaging Services will run the positron emission tomography scanner, which detects cancers and heart and brain disease faster and more accurately than other imaging technology.
It is one of only seven PET scanners in NSW and means Illawarra cancer patients will no longer have to travel to Sydney.
It is expected the first scans at the hospital will be done on January 31, the same day Illawarra Cancer Carers will hold a celebration dinner to welcome the scanner.
"We're really overjoyed it's finally here," Illawarra Cancer Carers banquet committee chairman Keith Wilson said.
"They told us the October before last it was going to be here the previous January. It's been well over 12 months we've been waiting after they made the decision to buy it."
Mr Wilson said the petition, tabled in NSW Parliament in August 2012, had a huge part to play in securing the scanner, as did the efforts of Illawarra oncologist Professor Philip Clingan, and others.
He said Kiama MP Gareth Ward suggested a petition for the necessary technology when the Illawarra Cancer Carers met him at Parliament, seeking his help to buy an ultrasound for Wollongong Hospital.
The ultrasound was bought with funds raised by the Cancer Carers and the government.
"Between us and Mr Ward we had the [scanner] petition going and by the time they launched the petition, we had more than 10,000 signatures. It was a great response from the people of Wollongong, it [the scanner] has been needed for a long, long time down here."
Illawarra Cancer Carers encourage people to attend their PET scanner celebration dinner on January 31 at City Beach Function Centre.
The head of nuclear medicine at Wollongong Hospital, Professor Barry Ellison, will be the guest speaker and Professor Clingan will also speak.
Tickets cost $75 and include canapes, a three-course meal, drinks and live entertainment by Scott Radburn and Jedd Weston.
Mr Wilson said the scanner would save sick people trips to Sydney and would serve people all along the South Coast.
Healthcare Imaging Services national business development manager for nuclear medicine and PET, Matt Ayers, said the private/public partnership represented a "remarkable and fabulous opportunity" for the region.
"The PET scanner we've purchased is a very complex piece of machinery ... and has the highest [specifications] of its kind in Australia," Mr Ayers said.
"We've spent over $2.5 million on the PET scanner and the fit-out for the room will be in the vicinity of $1 million so it's a major financial commitment."
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