Virtual care keeps vital cancer treatment close to home for Bendigo patients

A hybrid in-person and virtual model of care has provided private patients requiring cancer treatment in Bendigo from having to travel to Melbourne for treatment or utilise an already high-demand service at Bendigo Public Hospital.

20 Nov 2023

Four St John of God Health Care caregivers standing in a hospital ward smiling at the camera.

The private oncology service offered at St John of God Bendigo Hospital was at risk of closing due to a shortage of local oncologists. Thanks to a new approach where oncologist, Dr Cameron McLaren cares for patients in-person in Bendigo, and remotely from St John of God Berwick Hospital (200km south east of Bendigo), patients have received the same convenient, comfortable and high quality care they are accustomed to.

Under the model, Dr McLaren visits patients at hospital in Bendigo, and from Berwick uses a combination of telehealth (video conferencing and telephone).

Dr McLaren has worked at St John of God Berwick Hospital since 2018, and began treating St John of Bendigo Hospital patients under the new hybrid model of care in July 2023.

St John of God Bendigo Hospital Director of Nursing Andriy Kurtsev, said that the service ensures patient choice in cancer treatment. 

“As a private hospital serving patients from more than 300 km radius, it is really important to us to maintain patients’ right of choice when it comes to cancer treatment, and implementing this mixed model of care allows us to maintain access for regional patients to private oncology care close to home, and without unnecessary delays.”

By being able to support St John of God Bendigo Hospital’s oncology service through virtual care, this has meant the hospital’s specialist cancer nurses were retained and we are able to grow the service, with a new oncologist set to join St John of God Bendigo Hospital in 2024.

This initiative is a key deliverable of St John of God Health Care’s Virtual Care Roadmap, which aims to modernise the organisation’s service offering, and bringing care closer to home for patients and marginalised communities.