Monto Hospital gets chemotherapy

Director of Nursing Tracey Pattie led the charge in setting up the service in Monto for patients like Kim Pointon.
Director of Nursing Tracey Pattie led the charge in setting up the service in Monto for patients like Kim Pointon. Jack Lawrie

MONTO Hospital will be the site of the first rural chemotherapy treatment service in the Wide Bay area.

Wide Bay Hospital Health Service has become the second health service in Queensland to use a "Tele-Chemo” model, in which specially trained local nurses administer the treatment while video-linking with the Bundaberg Cancer Care Centre team.

Monto resident Kim Pointon, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, has made the five hour round trip to Bundaberg Hospital for treatment.

But now she'll be able to receive her treatment closer to home.

"I live here in Monto so it's only a two minute trip up to the hospital as opposed to a two and a half hour drive to Bundaberg,” Kim said.

"The drive over is not so bad, but the drive home takes it out of me because we come home the same day.”

The business owner, who runs Kim's Kafe, in Monto said the service took some of the difficulties of living with cancer off her and her family and friends.

"I need an escort to come with me, I run a business so it means paying wages for the whole day, and I do a bus run so travel means having to get other people to take time out to fill in for me as well,” Kim said.

"I'm very grateful that it's available, and for me and future cancer patients it's going to be a good thing for Monto and the surrounding districts.”

The service will allow patients in regional areas to access certain kinds of cancer chemotherapy treatment without having to travel long distances to Bundaberg or Brisbane.

Monto Hospital nursing director Tracey Pattie led the charge getting the program installed.

"It's been a long process because of the training; it's not just the four nurses that have to be trained, all 35 staff members have to be trained in the handling of the chemicals, refrigeration, that sort of thing,” she said.

The program is for public health care patients only and an appointment needs to be made at Bundaberg Hospital before they can be put on the local Tele-Chemo.

This is so doctors can ensure they receive the appropriate treatment.

Bundaberg staff medical oncologist Dr Craig Mulhall said the roll-out of the chemotherapy delivery would allow patients to access cancer care like never before.

"We know historically that people in regional areas have less access to cancer care as well as medical care of all kinds,” Dr Mulhall said.

"This means we'll be able to have cutting edge cancer care closer to home, which has been one of our goals in the Wide Bay for a long time.”

At each end there will be a webcam setup allowing doctors from the Bundaberg Hospital to communicate directly and visually with the nurses on the local side.

Clinical nurse facilitator Penny Reed oversaw the development of the model of care as well as the training for rural staff.

"We've done quite a lot of work training all of the staff, whether they're nurses or operational staff, they need to be able to understand the drugs and how they work,” Ms Reed said.

The system required comprehensive set up, and will continue with annual training refreshers for the staff in Monto, as well as future sites.

Dr Mulhall said the next site to receive the roll-out was likely to be Gin Gin.

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