Wairoa gets chemotherapy treatment permanently for the first time

Wairoa cancer patients are now travelling a matter of minutes as opposed to hours to get chemotherapy treatment.

And it’s happened because of the advocacy of a group of Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora nurses and Cyclone Gabrielle.

Within ten days of the cyclone hitting, the Hawke’s Bay Oncology nursing team were administering chemotherapy treatment in the northern Hawke’s Bay town, which was cut-off from the rest of the country, says Clinical Nurse Manager Laura Ledger.

“We had been trying to get it up and running for about five years. We had done a trial there, and that highlighted the need, but there was a lot to work through. Then when the cyclone hit, an email was sent out asking about any essential services,” says Ledger.

“Our team jumped at the chance to get that service finally there.”

To get it up and running, Wairoa’s Rural Nurse Specialist, Nerys Williams, helped both Ledger and Associate Clinical Nurse Manager Karen Linley to find all the patients, virtually review them, and cluster the group for treatment.

Since then, 27 patients have been through the service, it has moved from the Outpatients area, upstairs to a permanent place next to the inpatient ward, stock on hand, and there are La-Z-Boys for the patients to sit in.

Williams has been trained by Ledger, Linley and the other Oncology nurses to administer the chemotherapy.

It’s the ease of access to treatment for people in Wairoa and surrounding areas that means so much to Ledger.

“We used to have a woman who would move heaven and earth to get here [Hastings]. The roads were flooded once, and we didn’t think there would be a chance she would make it,” says Linley.

“But we open up the doors in the morning and there she was. She had gone off-roading through a farm. For two years she travelled here, whichever way she could, then for her final two she was able to finally do in relative ease in Wairoa.

“She thoroughly enjoyed those last treatments.”

Another patient, Mel Pomana, previously needed to do at least a three hour round trip to Hastings for her treatment.

“It is life changing for me to get chemotherapy at home in Wairoa,” says Pomana.

“It’s made the world of difference to me - I would have to go in a van that travels five times a week to Hastings. If you weren’t there when the van left, too bad, and no chemotherapy treatment that week. Now, the stress has gone, and it is so much easier.”

Health NZ General Manager of Whānau and Communities Penny Rongotoa says extending the service to Wairoa, where up to eight people can receive chemotherapy in a day, is priceless.

“It reduces the stress, and has other health benefits such as patients being more hydrated, and warmer, so it is easier to administer the treatment, but patients are making valuable connections with each other meaning they don’t feel so isolated,” says Rongotoa.

To ensure the success of this programme, Williams is supported by the Oncology nursing team, who travel to Wairoa as needed, says Rongotoa.
“Seemingly small things like this, lead to big outcomes in recovery from cancer.”


Photo above has Rural Nurse Specialist Nerys Williams administering chemotherapy treatment to patient Mel Pomana.

Media contact: audrey.malone@hbdhb.govt.nz

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