The prospect of a $35 million integrated cancer centre helped recruit an experienced specialist to Dubbo.
Dr Rajat Rai arrived in the city this year and became the second full-time oncologist based at Dubbo Hospital.
Before taking up the position he had met with Dr Florian Honeyball, who was at the forefront of a campaign to lobby for an integrated cancer centre for western NSW.
The project that moved ahead with commitments of funding from both the federal and state governments was something of a clincher.
“When the opportunity was here I came and met Florian and Florian explained what the plans were, and that really got me interested in the job,” Dr Rai said.
“Apart from that, I always wanted to work in a regional town, because I think that’s where we can actually make a lot of difference.”
Dr Rai was present on Monday as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveiled the schematic designs for the Western Cancer Centre.
The specialist who trained in Canberra and Sydney emphasised the importance of the facility in bringing care to patients who were “really quite sick”, making travel a difficulty.
“Our population here deserve good care and I think what the premier and the team here have done is coming up with new projects like this, it’s really exciting times for our region,” Dr Rai said.
Dr Honeyball, who became Dubbo’s first resident oncologist in 2015, said the arrival of Dr Rai was significant for patients.
“Having somebody else here really means we can increase the amount of services that we provide,” he said.
It meant local multi-disciplinary team meetings could take place at Dubbo, without having to refer to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, he said.
“And that’s been the big difference in having Raj on board,” he said.
Dr Honeyball was effusive about his colleague’s expertise.
“Raj also brings a wealth of experience, particularly in melanoma,” he said.
“Raj did a fellowship at the Melanoma Institute of Australia and with that brings world-first and world-class knowledge within that sub-speciality type, so we’re really happy to have him on board.”
Melanoma is a huge issue in western NSW.
“We have a higher than average for Australia proportion of people with melanoma,” Dr Honeyball said.
“So to be able to provide that tertiary, even quaternary level melanoma knowledge is really such a boon for the people of western NSW.”