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Is chemo in the home a “pink batts disaster” in the making?

There are few of us who escaped the news coverage of what happened when the Australian government wanted to boost the economy back in 2009, by funding the installation of “pink batts” into homes.
Tragically, four young men died, from what was found to be a lack of oversight by the government resulting in massive system failures.  Simply put, the government provided the money, but did not ensure that there was the appropriate legislation, regulation or training available to make it safe.  And where there is money to be made, there will always be some who will want to profit from it.  Some of these people will have no regard for the safety of the product they are supplying, some will be ignorant of what is needed to make it safe.  The result is the same.
When people ask me, “is giving chemo in the home safe?”, I find it difficult to answer.  To be honest the answer is both yes and no.
I have worked managing a “home chemo” service for just under 20 years.  I’ve developed a robust set of sys…
Recent posts

So, you want a second opinion??

Recently I had an abnormal test result come back.I’ll withhold the details, so those who are squeamish don’t stop reading.Suffice to say it is a test that only women need to have done, it is done as an early detection test for cancer, and no woman enjoys it.
The abnormal result is not one you want, and means you need further tests to confirm the findings, to work out if any treatment is needed and importantly to make sure there is no cancer.So, my fabulous GP, Penny, did a referral and off I toddled to a surgeon for more tests.
In the surgeon’s office the additional tests undertaken where inconclusive, that is, there was nothing bad found but he also couldn’t see all the bits he needed to be able to see to say that everything was definitely OK.His recommendation at this stage was a very reasonable one, and one that many surgeons in the same position would have given.The recommendation was to do a “biopsy’ and send it off to the lab for further analysis.To call this recommendation a “bio…

In whose best interests?

Recent media reports have highlighted the somewhat complex and hidden costs associated with health care.The Four Corners report “Mind the Gap” focused on out-of-pocket expenses and hidden fees from surgeons.Whilst the ABC medical report on “Secret Pacemaker Payments Boosting Private Hospital Coffers” focused on the hidden rebates hospitals receive for using various medical devices.
The two issues are separate, but very much related.  Both point to the lack of transparency of financial interactions between specialists, hospitals and a variety of other stakeholders in the health care market.


The first media report highlighted the issue around “informed financial consent”.It is mandatory for all patients receiving care from a specialist in a private hospital to sign a document stating that they agree to the charges related to the procedure or care for which they are being admitted.But how “informed” is the financial consent?At a vulnerable time, how likely is a patient to shop around to ge…

When exercise really is the best medicine

In 1997 a study was published in “Blood”, arguably the most respected medical journal on blood cancers on planet earth.The study was about the effect of exercise on treatment related fatigue after a type of bone marrow transplant called a peripheral blood stem cell transplant.The study peaked my interest, not just because of the positive benefits of exercise on reducing fatigue, but because it also showed a benefit in other somewhat more unexpected areas.It also reduced the length of time a patient’s white blood cell count is low after transplant, the severity of diarrhoea and the severity of pain.Of these the one that interested me most at the time, was the effect on the white blood cell count.The white cells are the part of your blood system which fight infection; without them the body is more prone to getting nasty bugs and less able to fight them off.
So, what was so interesting about this finding?In the early 80’s a medication, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), which …

Go Fund Me – I Don’t Want Chemo

As a woman I have breasts.  As a white, western, woman I have about a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer.If I get breast cancer, I really don’t want chemotherapy, if I can avoid it.Not unless it will make a significant difference to my outcome. Until recently, knowing if this was the case, was difficult.
Rarely does a study comes out and say that chemotherapy is not needed; that it does not reduce the likelihood of the cancer coming back and does not increase survival.
But that is exactly what has happened in a large trial on breast cancer patients with hormone-receptor–positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)–negative, axillary node–negative breast cancer, who would have until now, been given what is known as adjuvant chemotherapy.
Adjuvant chemotherapy is chemotherapy which is given after a potentially curative procedure (in the case of breast cancer this is surgery) to mop up any remaining cancer cells in the body that we can’t see. It’s a tricky business.  We’ve …

When healthcare is NOT about the patient.......

Have you ever believed in something, something you thought everyone else believed in as well; only to find out that in fact nothing could be further from the truth?
Just after we started chemo@home 5 years ago, a very high up health executive said to us during a meeting, "It's not about the patients, don't bring emotion into this".  It was possibly the first time (but definitely not the last time) that such a jaw dropping statement like this was said to us.
We had started chemo@home on the entire principle that treatment WAS ALL ABOUT THE PATIENT.  For us, the patient and their family are at the centre of everything we do.  Their choices, about their treatment, is what matters most.
To find out that there were health managers and executives who put other concerns before the patient was, for us, mind blowing.  What are these concerns you might ask.... well let’s just say that a lot of emphasis is placed on a health services "activity", the number of staff they …

How to End a Relationship by Not Eating Grapes

I don't much like shopping.  Not for food, clothes, homewares, furniture, cars or houses. But give me a cause, a reason to think more deeply and then I become a passionate shopper.  The ultimate conscious consumer.
Being a conscious consumer is defined as having an increased awareness of the impact of purchasing decisions on the environment and on health and life in general.
It is of course a double-edged sword. No decision can be made on the spur of the moment, far too much thought needs to go into every purchase.  The joy, however, from having purchased an item that attains the level of accountability I demand is immense.
It started years ago with "buy Australian". Something which has turned into Australian made, Australian owned, Australian produce... oh and even if it is Australian I want it as local as possible.
I support brands, the ones that disappear one by one on our duopolies shelves, who look after the environment, who understand their supply chain.
Carbon neutral,…