First-of-a-kind cancer rehabilitation opens at Greenwich Hospital

Australasia’s first cancer-specific rehabilitation ward opened its doors at HammondCare’s Greenwich Hospital this week.

This unique multidisciplinary service will be offered to cancer survivors with significant residual problems in daily functioning - helping them regain their independence and quality of life.

HammondCare’s Chief Medical Officer, A/Prof Andrew Cole, says cancer is the new chronic disease, with patients living longer than ever before after a cancer diagnosis and with increasing need for cancer-specific rehabilitation.

“It is a common misconception that living with cancer is primarily about acute treatment, without sufficient recognition that after the acute phase there can be continuing significant impacts on quality of life and independence,” said A/Prof Cole.

“The cancer may have been treated, the acute medical condition may be under control, but a person may be left with ongoing limitations best served by restorative care in a rehabilitation environment.

“We all value our independence. This service will give cancer survivors back a sense of control over their daily life that they may not otherwise have had while receiving treatment.”

With longer term survival rates after cancer increasing to an estimated 80 to 90 per cent, there is a growing need for cancer-specific rehabilitation to address chronic impairments that may result from treatment. This might range from loss of mobility through to difficulty with activities of daily life, depending on the type of cancer and the treatments given.

“Cancer is becoming a chronic disease,” says A/Prof Cole, “just like strokes, arthritis and amputations. With chronic disease comes disability that needs appropriate assessment and treatment.”

With a multidisciplinary approach to restorative care, the program will draw on support from a wide range of experienced specialists that respond in an individually-tailored way to each person’s needs.

“We have our physiotherapists to assess mobility problems, occupational therapists assess daily living needs, speech therapists if there are speech or swallowing problems, and we offer other specialist staff including dietitians, to pain management, through to social workers where needed.

“There is real optimism in this specialised approach - there is always something we can do to improve the quality of life for these patients,” said A/Prof Cole.

Accessing the service

Admittance into the ‘Jacaranda’ cancer rehabilitation ward at Greenwich Hospital occurs through referral from the patient’s hospital or treating doctor and it is now receiving patients.

The newly refurbished ward has eleven spacious single rooms and access to the hospital’s multidisciplinary teams and rehabilitation therapy areas.

Funds from HammondCare's 2014 Charity Golf Day at Killara Golf Club were used to support the refurbishment of the unit - with thanks to all donors and supporters.