Shearwater Lodge’s $150,000 grant will save lives

Acting Manager Radiotherapy Matthew Hoffmann, Shearwater Lodge Board members and Coffs Harbour Rotarians Robert Mutton and Robert Avery, Lions District Cabinet Secretary Nora Brooks, Shearwater Lodge Board Foundation Chairman and Rotarian Neville Hillenberg, (front) Shearwater Lodge Chairman Dr Paul Moran, District Manager Cancer Services, Innovation and Strategy Emily Saul and Shearwater Board member Barbara Lawson of the Lions Club of Woolgoolga.

A NEW type of treatment for prostate cancer patients at Mid North Coast Cancer Institute (MNCCI) is coming to the region thanks to a grant provided by Coffs Harbour’s Shearwater Lodge.

This is the first facility in regional NSW to have access to the new type of treatment which dramatically reduces treatment time and waiting lists.

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Stereotactic radiotherapy is currently only available in some major Australian cities, but Coffs Harbour’s Shearwater Lodge has provided a $150,000 grant that will bring the highly successful technique to the city.

Shearwater Lodge Board Chairman Dr Paul Moran said the grant would fund a specialised project radiation therapist, who will be responsible for introducing and managing the new treatment process for Coffs Harbour patients.

“This project is particularly exciting because the board has always believed funds raised by the lodge should be used locally to support local residents,” Dr Moran said.

“We are hoping to have the project officer radiotherapy position available in June and will fund the role for twelve months.

“This method of treating prostate cancer has only been available in big cities, not regional centres, because of the cost of getting it established.

“Shearwater Lodge’s grant will change that, and we expect the result will improve treatment for prostate cancer patients throughout the Mid North Coast,” said Dr Moran.

Shearwater Lodge is a Rotary Club of Coffs Harbour initiative, opening in 2005 with widespread funding support from Woolgoolga Lions Club, many private individuals in the Coffs Harbour community, the Cancer Council, City Of Coffs Harbour and Regional Solutions, plus many private donations, who together raised $1.2 million beginning in 2000.

It provides affordable accommodation at Coffs Harbour Health Campus for cancer, medical and trauma patients, and their loved ones.

MNCCI Acting Manager Radiotherapy Matthew Hoffmann said the new treatment would be a “huge boost” for the prostate cancer service and its patients.

“This new radiotherapy treatment involves high-dose therapy which means shorter treatment courses… often only five as opposed to the typical treatment courses of 20 to 41,” Mr Hoffmann said.

“The new daily treatment option initially takes us longer to do due to more patient preparation, imaging and treatment delivery times, but the shorter courses will lead to more patients being treated.”

With the radiation therapist in their role over the next twelve months, MNCCI will be able to complete the implementation phase, training and embed the new workflows into standard practice.

“The Shearwater Lodge grant makes this project possible, and it will have a significant impact on the lives of people requiring radiation therapy in our region,” Mr Hoffmann said.

“This is a wonderful outcome for our patients and our community.”

Dr Moran said the grant was largely possible due to the foresight of Shearwater Lodge’s original board, which included Rob Mutton, Alan Mulhern and Chairman Neville Hillenberg.

“Neville’s contribution has been immense from the start as the original chairman from 2004 to 2020,” Dr Moran said.

“Through the efficient running of Shearwater Lodge since it opened in 2005, we are in a position where we can realise our initial goal, which is to support local cancer research and other medical activities focused on cancer treatment.”


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