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A first for home treatment

Penny Roberts used to travel to the hospital every two days to get fluids to manage her low blood pressure — the chemotherapy treatment for her Stage 4 bowel cancer was leaving her nauseous and quite dehydrated.

“I would sit there for a few hours in a chair in the infusion centre taking up space,” she said.

These days, Penny, 49, is now a patient in her north shore home. Three times a week, sitting around the dining room table, Hospital in the Home (HITH) Transitional Nurse practitioner Liana Scott uses a small pump to administer two litres of saline solution.

Penny is the first chemotherapy patient in the district to receive fluids at home.

“Nobody with cancer wants to go to hospital,” said Penny. 

“If you must go to hospital just to get fluids and you can do it at your house? Oh my gosh, it’s a game changer.” 

Penny is one of around 100 patients an array of NSLHD staff treat through the district’s Virtual Care and HITH service, which aims to ease pressure on busy emergency departments and other parts of the system. It also benefits the sick, who are less likely to pick up a hospital-acquired infection and prefer care in their own environment.

There is so much more we can do to move care out of the acute hospital setting
Chenyao “Jerry” Yu, General Manager of Virtual Care and HITH

he HITH wing of the service has run since 2000 and now looks after 80 different ailments. 

Manager Jairo Herrera said patients can be treated in their homes, in clinics and at work. In some instances, children are cared for at school. 

“Similar or improved clinical outcomes can be achieved in the community outside of the hospital system,” he said. 

“It’s the way of the future.”

The pandemic saw the virtual aspect of the service ramped up, with a particular focus on remote monitoring and hospital substitution treatment, said Chenyao “Jerry” Yu, General Manager of Virtual Care and HITH.

He envisions the district will have a virtual facility that has the capacity for 500 beds. 

Back at Penny’s place, it takes four hours for the saline bag to empty. Some days, Liana returns to unplug the pump. On others, Penny can disconnect it herself as a HITH nurse talks her through the process via Telehealth. 

“They’ve taught me how to do it,” she said. 

Being at home means she can spend more time pottering, doing her “medical admin” and being with her husband and two children.
“I’m blown away,” said Penny.

“It’s such a great service.”

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