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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Oncology advocates back medtech industry call for funding shortfalls

Health Industry Hub | January 31, 2024 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: In anticipation of the upcoming 2024–25 Federal Budget, the Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) is urging an enhanced focus on equitable access to radiation therapy, backed by the Radiation Oncology Access Coalition (ROAC). This alliance within MTAA comprises consumer advocates, public and private providers, not-for-profits, and technical and clinical experts.

The crux of this advocacy lies in recognising the pivotal role of radiation therapy in clinical best practice, despite often being overlooked by the government. A joint whitepaper from Varian and Lung Foundation Australia highlighted that radiation therapy has a critical role in curing 40% of all cancers, representing a best-practice treatment for 48% of cancer diagnoses, and remarkably costing only 6 cents for every dollar invested by the government in cancer treatment.

However, a concerning statistic looms: 20% of cancer patients who should receive radiation therapy as per best practice care do not currently have access to it.

In a recent interview with Health Industry Hub, Mark Middleton, CEO of Icon Group – largest private cancer care provider – stressed the organisation’s responsibility in actively engaging with government to advocate for sustainable oncology platforms and equitable access to care.

“Where you live shouldn’t dictate if you live,” he affirmed.

As the MTAA and ROAC set their sights on addressing these challenges, three key issues come into sharp focus.

The government’s 2019 announcement of $63 million for 13 regional cancer centres has only delivered 2 centres, despite the need to provide equitable access to healthcare for those living in rural and regional communities is a national priority. This shortfall leaves patients in regional areas, already 10% less likely to receive radiation therapy, without access to best-practice care.

The financial burden on remote and rural patients who must travel to metropolitan centres for weeks on end is substantial, impacting their ability to manage childcare, replace lost income, and address travel and accommodation costs.

In response to this, the MTAA is urging the government to fulfil the ALP’s election commitment and reverse the previous funding cuts to deliver the remaining 11 regional centres.

While the Radiation Oncology Health Program Grants (ROHPG) scheme historically provided funding for radiation therapy machines, recent government cuts and changes to bulk-billing requirements have rendered the scheme ineffective.

“New machines will not reach treatment centres, existing treatment centres will close and new treatment centres won’t open, contradictory to the scheme’s stated objectives,” the industry body emphasised.

In fact, the industry anticipates a failure in the upcoming February 2024 grant round, jeopardising critical funding for radiation oncology machines.

The MTAA is calling for a reversal of the new bulk-billing requirement and an expansion of eligible medical technologies for ROHPG funding, including for TPS, NIS/OIS, brachytherapy and simulators (CT/MRI/PET), motion management/surface guidance.

Additionally, the MTAA is seeking for a top-up payment over the $3 million capital funding cap for advanced radiotherapy solutions and the re-inclusion of Network Information Systems (NIS) in the scheme “to allow radiotherapy providers to integrate the latest technology into their practice and improve patient outcomes”.

Lastly, the industry body’s pre-budget submission highlights the ongoing delay in implementing recommendations from the MBS Review Taskforce and Oncology Clinical Committee initiated in 2015. This delay poses a significant challenge to patients’ timely and appropriate cancer treatment, with concerns that the extended timeline may render the recommendations outdated.

In reimagining healthcare across the entire patient journey, Health Industry HubTM is the only one-stop-hub bringing the diversity of Pharma, MedTech, Diagnostics & Biotech sectors together to inspire meaningful change.

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