This Virtual Care Awareness Week marks five years of Western NSW Local Health District’s ground-breaking virtually assisted chemotherapy service, which has allowed patients in Coonabarabran to receive life-saving treatment from the comfort and convenience of their own homes.
Minister for Regional Health Bronnie Taylor said the Remote Video Assisted Chemotherapy (RVAC) service is a prime example of the innovative services provided through virtual care across rural and regional NSW.
"As part of Virtual Care Awareness Week, we are celebrating the virtual services that are making a difference to the lives of rural and regional patients, ensuring they can receive the treatment they need closer to home," Mrs Taylor said.
"Virtual care doesn’t come at the expense of a doctor or a nurse. It is an additional model of care that allows health services to be delivered in parts of regional and rural NSW that wouldn’t have been possible 10 or 15 years ago.
"Services like RVAC are another step in the right direction to improving the experience of care for people in small communities through the use of virtual care to supervise the administration of cancer treatments at their local hospital," Mrs Taylor said.
The RVAC Program sees trained nurses on the ground administer the chemotherapy drug to the patient while being monitored by a doctor based in Dubbo.
Minister for Western NSW Dugald Saunders said RVAC provides wonderful opportunities for regional patients to stay close to home while receiving treatment.
"Having this service in Coonabarabran means patients from communities across Western NSW can receive the necessary treatment they require but at the same time remain close to loved ones in their home region," Mr Saunders said.
"Undergoing chemotherapy is tough enough as it is, so being able to stay where they’re comfortable can play a small but significant role in making the process a little bit easier for patients."
Two-time breast cancer survivor Crystal Harper was the first patient to use the RVAC service at Coonabarabran in 2017.
Ms Harper was first diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Breast Cancer in 2012 and again with secondary Breast Cancer Stage 4 in 2015. During this time she was travelling to Dubbo to receive treatment.
"I was honoured to be the first person in NSW to receive my treatment this way. It has changed my life completely. I am able to enjoy my daily activities and spend more time with my family and friends," Ms Harper said.
"Before RVAC, in my seven years of treatment I travelled 44,920km, which came at a significant financial cost. Since having RVAC at Coonabarabran I have been able to reduce my travel significantly.
"I am forever grateful to RVAC being in Coonabarabran, it has given me my life back and I am no longer a person consumed by my cancer treatment."