Nowra Private Hospital has opened a comprehensive oncology centre as part of a wider hospital upgrade.
As well as the new oncology centre the hospital is also getting new upgraded theatres, upgraded patient rooms and a re-designed day surgery unit.
The centre, a day unit, primarily providing the administration of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, blood transfusions and other infusions such as iron, will be staffed by specialist nurses, allied health employees and doctors who will support patients through their cancer treatment journey.
Previously, private patients wanting chemotherapy, infusions and transfusions undertaken in the private system had to travel to Wollongong.
Nowra Private Hospital CEO Prue Buist said the new service would assist local patients,
"Going through cancer treatment is hard enough without the additional stress and inconvenience of needing to travel to access this service," she said.
"We are looking forward to being able to treat patients close to their homes and it also makes sense that patients can see their specialist and then receive treatment at the same location."
We are looking forward to being able to treat patients close to their homes and it also makes sense that patients can see their specialist and then receive treatment at the same location.Nowra Private Hospital CEO Prue Buist
It is planned for the unit to work with the Shoalhaven Cancer Care Centre, with patients able to see their specialists at Nowra but also have cancer treatment at the private hospital if they wish.
Tomakin man Colin Moylan is the first patient to undergo treatment at the new centre.
The 73-year-old was diagnosed with malignant neoplasm of the bladder in April this year.
He underwent surgery where a tumor the size of a squash ball was removed and underwent induction treatment in Wollongong Private Hospital in August.
That saw him undertake six treatments, where he and his wife Anne would travel up from south of Batemans Bay, be prepared for the treatment, undergo the two hours of treatment, then recover before travelling home.
"It was a long day," he said, "with our travelling it was about 10 hours."
Or they would stay overnight.
As part of his ongoing treatment, Colin undergoes what is called "maintenance treatment" every three months.
That entails the drug Bacillus Calmette-Guerin or BCG, an intravesical immunotherapy for treating early-stage bladder cancer, being injected into his bladder.
It's used to help keep the cancer from growing and to help keep it from coming back. BCG is a germ that's related to the one that causes tuberculosis (TB), but it doesn't usually cause serious disease.
During the two hour treatment he has to be rotated every 15 minutes.
"It's tiring but if it's what you have to do survive, it's what you do," he said.
It's tiring but if it's what you have to do survive, it's what you do.Only having to travel to Nowra is fantastic. It's certainly made our day a few hours shorter.Patient Colin Moylan
"Only having to travel to Nowra is fantastic. It's certainly made our day a few hours shorter.
"And honestly there is no difference from the treatment you get in Nowra to what I was getting in Wollongong Private - it's just closer.
"The nurses are fantastic, they look after us wonderfully - it's just the same as Wollongong. We get fantastic care."
Sentiments echoed by Anne.
"The nurses are fantastic, they care about me as much as Col," she said.
"They are living through this experience with us and their support is fantastic and certainly much appreciated.
"The follow up by them and the doctors is fantastic."
Colin is keen to promote men's health, saying "blokes often put things off or don't even tell their partners about a health issue".
"We have to be up front and open about it," he said.
"No point being big and tough and dealing with it yourself if you're not here.
"I'm very lucky Anne is also a nurse and she picked up on a few things and she wouldn't let me let things slide.
"All I can say to the blokes out there is if you have an issue, whatever it is, go and get it checked. And let your partner know.
Blokes often put things off or don't even tell their partners about a health issue. We have to be up front and open about it. No point being big and tough and dealing with it yourself if you're not here.Patient Colin Moylan
"You are supposed to be a team and you can undertake the journey together - it certainly makes it easier.
"My philosophy is I want to live long enough to be a nuisance for my children," he joked.
Nurse Unit Manager Sonia Smith comes to the centre with years of experience, including 17 in the paediatric cancer ward at Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney, while clinical nurse practitioner Jessica Lee is a dedicated breast care nurse.
Both also work at the day oncology unit at Wollongong Private.
"I loved my time looking after the kids," Sonia said "paediatrics was my life and it was a special time, where you forge close bonds with not only the children but their families - you go through the journey with them - but it's great to now be able to bring that experience into adults.
"My career has been an amazing journey.
"Our mission is to improve the quality of life of cancer patients, carers and their families by advancing the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure and prevention of the disease.
Our mission is to improve the quality of life of cancer patients, carers and their families by advancing the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure and prevention of the disease.Nurse Unit Manager Sonia Smith
"The nature and level of our care goes far beyond chemotherapy because every cancer diagnosis is different and personal.
"Our compassionate, highly competent staff treat all our patients as unique individuals."
She says at this stage Nowra Private has a two room dedicated unit and hopefully as patient volumes increase the unit can expand.
Jessica has worked for Ramsay Health for a decade, the last five in oncology.
"It's something I'm very passionate about," she said.
"The rapport we build with patients who are going through one of the toughest times of their lives is important. We get to play prominent roles in people's lives as they go through their treatments."
Associate Professor Ali Tafreshi, medical oncologist, will coordinate the operation of the centre.
"We are extremely grateful to be able to provide state of the art cancer treatments to our patients locally.
"Patients are going to receive personalised comprehensive treatment at Nowra Private Hospital.
"We can offer all available cancer treatments including immunotherapy to our patients. Our breast cancer patients will also have access to a dedicated specialist breast care nurse."
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