Starting in Western Australia seven years ago before expanding nationally, chemo@home allows cancer patients and those with compromised immune systems to receive chemotherapy from speciality nurses in their homes, instead of going to hospital for treatment. This service ensures more Victorians will be able to access critical chemotherapy services in their home environment, minimising their exposure to infection or viruses.
Silver Chain Chief Executive Dale Fisher said the recent pandemic response had opened many opportunities in both virtual and at home health delivery. “In the 21st century we are lucky to be able to deliver an expanding the range of services outside the hospital walls, including infusion services such as chemotherapy. It is right that such services should be delivered at home, providing patients with the care they need, in the location they choose.”
Chemo@home director Lorna Cook said the COVID-19 pandemic had already seen a large increase in patient demand to be treated at home. “When the pandemic hit, many people no longer wanted to go to hospital to get chemo as they feared potentially contracting coronavirus. This saw them delaying treatment,” Lorna said. “As a result, treatment numbers more than doubled, and we are now providing more than 1,200 treatments a month Australia-wide.”
Doctors have recognised the enormous benefit offered to patients in receiving critical cancer treatment at home. Richmond-based medical oncologist Ayesha Saqib is one of 150 medical specialists referring patients to chemo@home. “I have been referring patients to service for the last two years,” Dr Saqib said. “The main benefit, especially right now [during COVID-19], is the low risk of exposure to the [corona]virus for cancer patients who are immunosuppressed, as their treatments are brought to them in the home.”
Chemo@home is suited to most patients, depending on the complexity of their treatment, with Dr Saqib also noting, “quality of life is of high importance, so I give the option of having treatment at home to all who are able to receive it outside a hospital.”
Clients are also thrilled with the service. Melbourne resident and chemo@home client Deborah has been fighting stage four breast cancer for 12 years and speaks highly of the convenience it delivers.
“When I was receiving treatment at hospital it would take up most of my day, as it is a 45-minute drive each way, as well as the time taken to find parking and walk through the hospital. Now I have chemo@home visit for treatment every three weeks. I have the same nurse, so I don’t have to repeat myself, and I don’t have to do anything – they liaise with my oncologist and I don’t even have to leave the house to get my medication or for a blood test – it is all done here.”
Chemo@home and Silver Chain hope to grow patient awareness of this important service, particularly during the pandemic where immunosuppressed cancer patients are particularly vulnerable to infection outside their homes. For more information, see www.chemoathome.com.au.