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Innovative cancer home nursing service expands

Chemo@home founders Lorna Cook and Julie Adams
Photo: Chemo@home founders Lorna Cook and Julie Adams
A unique West Australian nursing service that provides chemotherapy and immunotherapy in the comfort of patients’ homes has expanded to South Australia.

Perth-based private service chemo@home, the brainchild of specialist oncology pharmacist Julie Adams and registered nurse Lorna Cook, launched its Adelaide service with one registered nurse in February, amid plans to expand across the nation.

Ms Adams said Adelaide patients have already embraced the innovative service.

“The Adelaide patients are increasing in number and we are doing more and more of them each week - they are loving the service,” she said.

“We employ one nurse, and the idea is we will increase staff as we need to.”

Launched three years ago, chemo@home aims to revolutionise the provision of healthcare to patients - reducing patient fatigue and risk of infection while cutting patient travel and parking costs, and decreasing patient reliance on carers or childcare.
As well as treatment for a range of cancers, including breast, colon and lung cancer along with leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, the service also provides infusions for chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, Crohn’s Disease and iron deficiency anaemia, alongside infusions for a range of other conditions.

Most health funds cover the service, with no gap, and more than 80 specialist doctors now refer to chemo@home in Perth.

The service has been such a success, it now employs 17 mostly casual staff in Perth, including nine chemotherapy-trained nurses who administer 300 treatments a month.

Ms Adams established the now-defunct WA Health Department-funded home chemotherapy service, enabling oncology and haematology patients from several hospitals to receive treatment while at home.

Building on her experience and expertise, Ms Adams, who was named the WA 2016 Telstra Business Woman of the Year, saw an opportunity to increase the availability of home treatments.

“If you’d asked me when I first started my career, I would never have envisaged this,” she said.

“But from the first time I started doing any home treatment, I always believed that this was the way forward - and at some point in time it would become the norm that most patients would get treated at home, because it’s where people are most comfortable.”

Ms Adams said chemo@home will continue to expand its reach across the nation within the next 12 to 24 months.

The service has already received nursing job applications from right across the nation.

“It’s fantastic we have got so much support from the nursing staff,” Ms Adams said.

“As we roll out the service, it’s about getting the word out there so that people know the service is available, so that they can ask for the service from their doctors.

“It also involves going around and talking to all of the doctors, so that they know the service exists - how we work and how they can use us, and then putting in the staffing and the infrastructure into those areas so that we can support the development of the service.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords