Dr Amanda Stevanovic, Director of Cancer Services at Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District
Cancer care in the time of COVID-19
23 Mar 2022
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is devastating and for cancer patients in recent years, undergoing treatment during a pandemic has presented further challenges and anxiety.
However, patients at the Nepean Cancer and Wellness Centre have been in good hands with staff at the Centre quickly adapting their service delivery to provide care that is as COVID-safe as possible.
Dr Amanda Stevanovic, Director of Cancer Services at Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District, says cancer patients are at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 and their immunocompromised condition also increases their risk of infection.
“With such a vulnerable patient group, it was not only necessary but also incredibly important to us that we adapt the way we deliver care and ensure the safety of our patients,” Dr Stevanovic says.
“We care for people who need timely and ongoing treatment. They also often need multiple follow-up appointments and so this presented some challenges.”
Dr Stevanovic says, “In examining the safety of our service, we had to consider ways to continue delivering our high quality care, but also think about the number of times patients would physically need to access the service, in order to help reduce the risk of exposure.”
For appointments that did not require patients to attend the Centre in person for examination or treatment, the Nepean Cancer and Wellness Centre quickly introduced telehealth phone appointments and video consultations using Skype, Pexip or myVirtualCare.
The move to telehealth and virtual consultations resulted in significant service transformation with more than 10,200 telehealth appointments and 130 video consultations conducted in 2021.
“Staff training was rolled out for the Pexip and myVirtualCare platforms, which allowed our clinicians to effectively conduct consultations with patients right across our District. It was great to use the platforms to connect with some of our most regional members of the community including our Lithgow Hospital patients,” Dr Stevanovic says.
“It was reassuring to both patients and staff that appointments could proceed in such a safe manner and that our patients could continue to receive the level of care they expect from us.”
Changes were also implemented throughout the facility to increase safety for those attending the service.
Alongside compulsory mask-wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene and health screening on entry, staff considered the spaces within the facility and were able to improve safety for patients by implementing measures such as separating the chemotherapy ward into two rooms, to reduce the number of patients and staff in each and limit the risk of exposure.
“As a health service, COVID-19 has certainly presented us with challenges but I’m really proud of the way we adapted and innovated to safely deliver vital care for our patients,” says Dr Stevanovic.