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  • Nursing tele-chemotherapy service bridges gap

    Author: Karen Keast

Rural generalist nurses are administering chemotherapy under the supervision of specialist nurses as part of an innovative telehealth initiative in Queensland.

Since it was launched last year, the telehealth model has delivered chemotherapy to three patients at Hughenden Hospital, reducing the cost and inconvenience of patients regularly being forced to travel more than 370 kilometres for treatment at Townsville Hospital.

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Under the tele-chemotherapy model, rural generalist nurses who received training to administer chemotherapy are overseen by chemotherapy-trained nurses via video link from the Townsville Cancer Centre.

The initiative has been such a success, it has been endorsed as a national model that is set to transform access to cancer clinical trials across the nation.

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) has endorsed the Australasian Tele-Trial Model which outlines a national framework to deliver clinical trials to patients living in remote and regional areas.


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The framework was built on the model of care operating between Hughenden and Townsville Hospitals.

Speaking when the service was first launched, Professor Sabe Sabesan, Medical Oncology Director at Townsville Hospital and Health Service, said tele-chemotherapy could be delivered simply, safely and sustainably.

“We don’t take any shortcuts with telehealth. What we are now offering in Hughenden is a safe model of care that benefits both staff and patients,” he said.

“Modern technology has made it feasible for us to deliver this fairly significant service to a remote western community with a population of a tick over 1000 people, which is a significant achievement.”

Dr Sabesan said the tele-chemotherapy model will be adopted to deliver clinical trials in smaller satellite sites, increasing services for rural and remote patients while also tackling rare tumours - trials which have traditionally been difficult to undertake.

“Clinical trials, particularly for rare cancers, often struggle to attract suitable numbers of patients whose tumour fits the eligibility criteria to run a suitable trial,” he said.

“This model has the potential to make these potentially life-saving trials more readily available to people who previously had to overcome huge barriers to be involved.”

Since its launch, the service has received overwhelming community support with a range of local groups raising $20,000 for equipment, including a chemotherapy treatment chair, a nursing trolley for equipment as well as a blanket warmer.

The Prairie State School, which has a total of eight students, also raised $600 from a 14 kilometre bike ride to purchase a television, cushions, rugs, framed posters and plants to make the chemotherapy room more comfortable for patients.

The Hughenden Hospital is now planning a morning tea to officially open the service and thank the local community for its support.


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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