“Why should rural patients travel all the way to Sydney for a five-minute follow-up?”
This is the question that led Associate Professor Carsten Palme, director of head and neck surgery at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, to open our first regional head and neck cancer clinic in Port Macquarie in 2017. Thanks to the generosity of supporters like you, we were able to purchase the equipment for the clinic. Two years later, the clinic has vastly improved treatment options for patients with complex head and neck cancers in the region.
“We have essentially moved the expertise at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse to the patient,” says A/Prof Palme. “Patients don’t need to travel into the city for non-surgical treatment and follow-ups. It saves them money and time away from their work, families and support networks.”
Regional clinics not only streamline treatment pathways for patients, they act as a direct referral line to the head and neck team at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. This gives regional patients access to the latest reconstructive cancer surgeries through local medical channels. “It’s really important that we work with the local healthcare infrastructure. We’re there to complement what already exists.”
“There are reconstructive procedures that are becoming routine for us, but rural patients don’t have access to these options locally. These clinics will raise awareness that this kind of treatment is available to them.”
A/Prof Palme is now looking to set up rural clinics in Tamworth and Wagga Wagga. His next challenge is equipping each clinic with fibre-optic endoscopes, a tiny camera that passes down through the nose to the back of the throat, giving the clinician a comprehensive view of the sinuses, throat and voice box. “Every head and neck surgeon has this equipment – it’s fundamental to what we do and the only thing we still need for these clinics.”
“It’s not just about keeping people alive, it’s about
improving their quality of life.
“We need to invest our resources in the country, because this is where we can make a massive difference.”
You can support A/Prof Palme’s vision of improved treatment for rural and regional patients by making a donation at donate.mylifehouse.org.au/ruralandregional