17 February 2020

Power of the positive drives new cancer ward at Canberra Hospital

| Ian Bushnell
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Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith opens the first stage of the new cancer ward at Canberra Hospital, flanked by ward staff. Photo: Supplied.

Canberra Hospital’s new 22-bed cancer ward, opened yesterday (17 February) by Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith, will feature additional positive pressure environment areas so patients can move freely around the ward and not be isolated in their rooms.

Positive pressure areas are designed to protect high-risk patients with compromised immune systems recovering from cancer or stem-cell transplants from airborne bacteria by directing air flows out rather than in.

Former patient Sue Gascoigne, who attended Monday’s official opening, said she had two spells of about a month each isolated in one room.

“I’m absolutely amazed that the complete ward is positive pressure. It is a fantastic thing to happen so patients can walk around freely rather than being isolated in one tiny room,” she said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said this was one of many features included after extensive consultation with staff, patients and carers, as well as study tours to other hospitals to ensure the two-stage $17.3 million redevelopment of the cancer ward was focused on providing the best possible patient care.

Ms Stephen-Smith said Ward 14A would start taking patients in early to mid-March. Work would then start on the slightly bigger Ward14B, which should be completed in the second half of the year.

In total, the redevelopment will deliver 50-beds, servicing not just Canberra but the surrounding region.

Ward 14A includes new medical equipment, more single bedrooms and day beds in each room so loved ones can stay if required.

A new dining room provides a space for patients and their families to spend time together and encourages patients to eat, which can be a struggle for some patients during their treatment.

Ms Stephen-Smith said treatment and recovery for cancer patients could be a long journey so it was important that they were able to receive the best care in the best possible environment to get the best outcome.

“They can be here at the hospital experiencing acute and debilitating treatment for months so providing them with an environment that’s comfortable, where friends and family and carers can visit them in comfort, where they can get together in the new dining room and eat together, where carers and family members can stay in comfort is important,” she said.

The refurbished ward also has utility stations along the walls so nurses have quick access to anything they might need to support patients, a quick connection to pathology, and an open environment at the front desk so patients feel welcome to approach and ask questions.

Ms Gascoigne said the daybed addition would make a big difference for patients “because it is a seriously isolating thing to be so ill … so to have someone with you will be a wonderful new thing to happen”.

She said the power of being positive and optimism was crucial for patients and to have people around would be welcome.

“Nurses and doctors are fantastic, they are remarkable people, the ancillary staff that back up all those people are also remarkable, but to have personal friends and family there is a very powerful thing,” Ms Gascoigne said.

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