Not every patient of the planned Western Cancer Centre in Dubbo will need to travel to it.
Centre staff will use videoconferencing in the delivery of chemotherapy to patients in Coonabarabran after a NSW-first pilot project in the town was declared a permanent service.
Feasibility studies into rolling out Remote Video Assisted Chemotherapy (RVAC) to two other Western NSW towns are under way.
Leader of the trial, Dubbo Hospital medical oncologist Florian Honeyball, wants to see RVAC go even further.
“We’re looking now at how we can scale up the unit (at Coonabarabran) and at the moment doing feasibility studies into Walgett and Cobar with a view to progressing to other towns in the coming one or two years,” he said.
After a celebration this week marking the first anniversary of RVAC in Coonabarabran, Dr Honeyball was confident about its impact on patients and their quality of life.
“Anecdotally, I think more people are choosing to have treatment because we are able to deliver it locally,” he said.
The trial was prompted by data showing many cancer patients living more than 100 kilometres from Dubbo were not accessing lifesaving treatment.
Community health nurses at Coonabarabran were upskilled to administer chemotherapy under the supervision of Dr Honeyball and Dubbo Hospital oncology unit staff using videoconferencing.
About 20 patients have received about 70 treatments since October last year.
Dr Honeyball travels to Coonabarabran to see patients every six to eight weeks, knowing they like to see their oncologist “every now and again”.
Feedback from the Coonabarabran patients has been “immensely positive”.
The benefits to them of RVAC include not having to undertake a regular 300-kilometre round trip to Dubbo, saving them money and time, and reducing their tiredness and stress.
“We have a lot of people who haven’t been to Dubbo since we started this service,” Dr Honeyball said.
Recently he addressed the American Society of Clinical Oncology Quality Care Symposium in Phoenix on RVAC, which he calls a “hybrid” of a service operating between Townsville and Mount Isa.
Dr Honeyball knows RVAC will increase the workload of the cancer centre.
“But that’s a good thing because it means people are receiving cancer services and that’s what the Western Cancer Centre is all about,” he said.