For cancer sufferers living in regional Queensland receiving treatment generally includes a grueling road trip to a major city.
Not anymore for Hughenden residents with chemotherapy able to be administered at the local hospital via tele-health.
Local nurses administer the treatment under the watchful eye of specialist nurses from Townsville hospital.
Last week, Hughenden woman Jane Charuba was the first in the town to receive the treatment.
Instead of the weekly almost 800km round trip Jane can now nip five minutes down the road and recover in the comfort of her own home.
“I had to go to Townsville for my first dose, which is a really big heavy dose of chemotherapy,” she said.
“It is a four hour drive, a huge day of treatment which leaves you feeling awful and depending on how you pull up you either need a night or two before you are feeling up to making the drive home.
“I can’t tell you how big a relief it was to get my treatment in Hughenden knowing that I could go straight home to my husband and my own bed.”
The reduced travel time could mean all the difference in her recovery.
Cancer has torn Jane’s family apart, losing both her mother and sister to the disease, and earlier this year, on her birthday, she too was diagnosed with Stage 1A ovarian cancer.
After a routine visit to the doctor for a pap smear the diagnosis was handed down and she underwent surgery to remove the cancer.
She had been training for the Masters Swimming Australia National Championships and so was feeling in top shape.
“During my two-yearly check-up I was asked if I had put on any unexplained weight and given how much work I’d be doing in the pool I mentioned to the doctor that I had put on an inch around the stomach,” she said.
“It has all happened really fast and with my family history it has been pretty stressful which is why being able to get looked after in my own community has made such a big difference.”
Townsville Hospital and Health Service Director of Medical Oncology Professor Sabe Sabesan said the treatment at the local level was simple, safe and sustainable.
Dr Sabesan said the nurses had undergone the required training and would be under the supervision of Townsville nurses via video-link.
“We don’t take any shortcuts with tele-health,” he said.
“What we are now offering in Hughenden is a safe model of care that benefits both staff and patients.
“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.”
Director of Nursing at Hughenden Hospital Ben Lawrence said local pride is involved when nurses can look after their community with more services.
“There was a bit of a buzz around the place when Jane came in for her first appointment,” he said.
“We work in a small community and it was really gratifying to be able to offer one of our locals a service that we’d never been able to provide before.
“It is also great for our staff to have this connection with a specialist service at The Townsville Hospital and while Jane is the first I have every confidence she won’t be the last to benefit from this service.”
When she finishes the full course of Chemotherapy Jane says she’s itching to get back into the pool to train for next year’s Masters in New Zealand.