Fears pressure on chemotherapy nurses is compromising care

THE chairman of a cancer advocacy group fears nursing shortages in the chemotherapy department at Orange hospital are affecting cancer patients.

“I am concerned patients are being compromised because of the pressure on staff,” Cancer Care Western NSW chairman John Carpenter said.

Mr Carpenter said he had been contacted by cancer patients who had told him of the pressure nurses were under while trying to cope with the workload.

“As a result it is creating problems, which is leading to some resigning,” he said.

“[We] speak with patients and we keep our ear close to the ground as to what is happening with services and the unit.”

Mr Carpenter said the lack of a full-time oncology pharmacist in Orange was adding to the pressure.

“It is a very important position in terms of chemotherapy treatment and that is falling to the chemotherapy nurses to do,” he said.

A Western NSW Local Health District spokesperson said the pharmacy at the Orange hospital was a whole-of-hospital service covering all clinical areas.

“In relation to oncology we are always looking at opportunities to use all available resources,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Carpenter said Orange had come a long way in providing excellent patient care for radiotherapy and chemotherapy patients, but the number of chemotherapy patients being treated in Orange had doubled in the last three years.

“The health service needs to move quickly and address this staffing problem,” he said.

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association organising team manager Lisa Kremmer said the association’s members had had difficulty obtaining chemotherapy staffing numbers at Orange hospital.

“Nursing numbers for full-time equivalent positions have been cut across the Western  NSW Local Health District,” she said.

With the success of Western Care Lodge for radiotherapy patients in Orange, running at about 96 per cent occupancy during the week, Mr Carpenter said he would like to see an equity of service for chemotherapy patients.

“We have a situation where we get a rare request for an overnight stay from someone being treated at the hospital, but ... the hospital and lodge management work closely together to book multiple weeks of accommodation for patients,” he said.

“If someone who is having chemotherapy treatment, for example, needs to stay overnight we try to find them affordable accommodation elsewhere if we are full.”

Member for Orange Andrew Gee was contacted for comment on nursing levels, after he called for an investigation two weeks ago.



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