Radiation experts to train therapists

Three radiation therapists from the Central Coast Cancer Centre at Gosford Hospital have volunteered for a mission to improve cancer treatment in Myanmar, one of the world’s poorest nations.

Mr Shaun Clifford, Mr Andrew Glenn and Mr Mitch Gibbons will each spend one month from July to September training local healthcare workers in the delivery of safe, accurate and effective radiation therapy treatments for cancer patients. Retired radiation oncologist, Prof Graeme Morgan is working with the University of Sydney’s Office for Global Health to run the volunteer program for the first time in Myanmar. Prof Morgan said as the demand for treatment increased, many low- income countries such as Myanmar were transitioning to more modern radiation therapy equipment but did not have the equivalent tertiary education available to match the machinery upgrades. “Unfortunately professional training for radiation therapy technologists in low income countries is only given by on-the-job observation and with ‘teaching’ given by senior staff who also do not have any formal training,” he said. “This program will look to provide basic training to the current therapists in Myanmar so they then have the skills and knowledge to pass on to others through a new training program which will be set up at the University of Medical Technology in Mandalay and Yangon. “This will lead to the Myanmar radiation therapy services becoming self- sufficient.” Radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy) is the use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours. The treatment involves the use of highly specialised equipment and complex computer systems which need to be operated with precise accuracy to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients. Safety is also a major concern if the treatment is not administered properly. Gosford Hospital’s chief radiation therapist, Mr Adam Chandler said the Central Coast Cancer Centre staff were specifically     invited to take part in the training project because they were a highly skilled and experienced team. “When the centre opened two years ago, we attracted a very high standard of staff,” he said. “We have strong in- house training, education and research programs and this is why our team were sought out to be involved.” Mr Shaun Clifford, a senior staff member at the Cancer Centre, said he and his two colleagues were looking forward to making a positive difference for both radiation therapy staff and patients in Myanmar. “My aim is establish a connection and simply work on improving their current methods by laying some basic foundations to ensure they are operating the new equipment in the best manner,” Mr Clifford said.

Media release, 11 June 2015 Lauren Nicholls, Central Coast Local Health District