Healthy Community. Best Care.

Covid-19 & Cancer Patients

Information for patients undergoing treatment at Kyabram District Health Service-Oncology Unit during COVID-19

During COVID-19 we are operating to maintain service to our patients, however we are making significant changes in care delivery to ensure patient and staff safety is maximised during this time.

Steps we are taking to ensure you safety

While we are working to minimise the disruption to clinics and patient care, our first concern is the safety of our patients, their carers and families, and to ensure that our staff are protected so they can continue to care for patients.

Generally, people with cancer should continue to follow any specific advice or standard precautions recommended by your Oncologist or Radiation Oncologist and treating health care team to minimise risk. All oncology patients undergoing active chemotherapy treatment have a ‘febrile neutropenia medical alert card’ to prompt urgent medical attention when presenting to the emergency department. Please bring this card with you if instructed to attend the emergency department for COVID-19 testing.

Your immunity

Your immune system may not be as strong as usual, due to your cancer diagnosis and/or treatment. Observing COVID-19 guidelines for older patients, regardless of your age, is a good approach.

Strategies to protect yourself

 Please use the links below for srategies to protect yourself:

Directions for cancer patients during COVID-19

Patients on treatment may be at increased risk of developing infection. There is also the risk of contracting COVID-19. The information below is for patients in active treatment (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments such as immunotherapies). It will help you understand what to do if you develop any symptoms.

If you are on treatment that can suppress your immune system (active chemotherapy or immune-suppressing drugs) and you develop a temperature higher than 38o regardless of associated symptoms GO to your closest emergency department or hospital acute care.

If you are NOT on treatment that can suppress your immune system and have respiratory symptoms (shortness of breath, cough, sore throat) AND a temperature higher than 38o, you may have COVID-19.  If unwell you should contact your nearest hospital emergency department, or call 000. Make sure you tell them you are a cancer patient. If you are not feeling unwell, contact your GP, closest fever clinic or emergency department and follow their advice.

If you are NOT on treatment that can suppress your immune system and have respiratory symptoms (shortness of breath, a cough or a sore throat) OR fever, you should follow the most current government information about what to do. Please call the 24-hour hotline 1800 675 398. Make sure you tell the operator you are a cancer patient.

You can also use the tool below to check if your symptoms indicate you may have COVID-19.

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/tool/basic-details

If you have OTHER general symptoms of cancer care during business hours, please call the Goulburn Valley Health Symptom and Urgent Review Clinic [SURC]. SURC Nurse is on M:0447 410162 or 58323777. This is cancer nurse-on-call support for patients experiencing side-effects during cancer treatment.

Your regular appointment type may change

Current cancer patients are being organised into appointment categories to ensure that physical visits are restricted ONLY to patients that need to be seen in person.

A large proportion of patient reviews and new patient appointments will be conducted by telephone and telehealth (videoconferencing where you and your doctor can see and speak to each other on screen). All patients with existing appointments are being individually contacted by Oncology Unit staff to inform them of changes – if you haven’t heard from us, we ask that you wait as we work through this process.

If a telehealth-video call appointment is offered to you, full instructions on the use of telehealth using HealthDirect will be mailed to you with your appointment details.

Telephone or telehealth appointments will feel different as we get accustomed to this type of contact. Discussions in your appointments may have new information for you to understand. We know these adjustments can be stressful for patients and you are encouraged to ask questions and follow up with your treatment team.  

When attending in person for treatment or review, current visitor restrictions at Kyabram District Health Service mean you will not be able to bring anyone into the appointment. If it is not possible for you to attend on your own, please let us know when you are contacted regarding your appointment so we can arrange what’s right for you.

Your regular treatment may change

There will potentially be changes to your treatment regimen to minimise attendance. Your treating team will decide the best option for you and discuss this with you these changes.

It might seem worrying for you to have a treatment break or be asked to alter your treatment, but this has been assessed as the safest course of action for you while COVID-19 is a risk to patients.

General Cancer information relating to COVID-19

For patients wanting general current information on COVID-19 specifically for cancer patients, we recommend checking in with the Cancer Council Australia website regularly.
https://www.cancer.org.au/cancer-and-covid-19.html

To get answers to specific questions regarding cancer and COVID-19, the Cancer Council Helpline is best. Call 13 11 20.
Cancer nurses are available to speak to on this helpline and information is updated daily.

You can also download the official government “Coronavirus Australia” app in the Apple App Store or Google Play, or join the WhatsApp channel on iOS or Android. Full details at: https://www.australia.gov.au/

Local support during this time

Cancer Resource Nurse

The Cancer Resource Nurse can provide assistance to you if you have questions about treatments, tests, appointments and care during this time.  Contact Cancer Resource Nurse-Kelly Scorey on 58570298

Community Wellbeing Service

To help those members of the community who require emotional or practical support  KDHS have set up a Community Wellbeing Service.

Help, such as friendly phone calls to keep in touch and check on wellbeing, pick up and drop off of small items such as Websterpacks is being offered to members of the wider communities KDHS assists.

If you, or someone you know, would like to have a chat about how we may be able to support you, or someone you care for, please call 5857 0200 during business hours. If we are out and about, please leave a message and we will call you back as soon as possible.