A collaborative partnership between Frere Hospital, a government-funded provincial hospital in East London, and Equra Health, an oncology services management organisation in the private healthcare sector, has allowed for cancer patients to receive critical ongoing radiotherapy care while Equra Health replaced its radiotherapy treatment machine at Cancercare’s Border Oncology Treatment Centre.

“The replacement of the older radiotherapy machine at the Border Oncology Treatment Centre was planned to take place over a period of five months. This upgrade was deemed essential to our mandate which is to ensure that we remain committed to providing the best possible oncology care to our patients,” said Western Cape Regional Business Manager for Medical Specialist Holdings (MSH), the holding company for Equra Health, Chris Salmon.

According to Salmon, without the agreement, patients would have had to travel and reside closer to Cancercare’s Langenhoven Drive Oncology Centre, in Port Elizabeth, only returning to their homes over the weekends, and the impact on patient wellbeing and health would have been significant.

The collaborative support of Frere Hospital has meant that patients were able to receive uninterrupted care within only a few kilometres of the Border Oncology Treatment Centre.

While the partnership has allowed for the majority of patients to continue with their radiation treatment at Frere Hospital with the support of the Eastern Cape Department of Health, the process of finalising and implementing the partnership was challenging during the transition and integration stages. For a short period during the initiation and termination stages, patients had to be transported to Port Elizabeth, and thanks to Frere Hospital’s staff and management the need for remote treatment was minimised.

“We knew that the process would take at least five months and wanted to ensure that patients received seamless medical care throughout. So, in 2017, we approached Frere Hospital to discuss a potential solution that would allow us to treat our patients on their machines in East London while our systems were being updated,” said Salmon.

“It was extremely convenient and beneficial for our patients. We used our own staff to administer treatment and we had technicians on standby to provide technical assistance. Our patients were treated after hours from 4pm to 7pm and Frere Hospital has been extremely supportive throughout,” continued Salmon.

“It is within government’s mandate to ensure our communities are able to access appropriate care. As our country prepares for the full scale implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI); this kind of collaboration provides evidence that the public and private sectors are able to work together for the common good,” said Chief Executive Officer of Frere Hospital, Dr Rolene Wagner.

“It also shows that the public sector is quite capable of providing first class care to ALL patients who use our services,” continued Dr Wagner.

In the five-month period, staff from both hospitals collaborated and shared their skill-sets as patients were planned and treated. This has facilitated useful and critical best-practice sharing between the two organisations.

The partnership ran from February this year and is expected to conclude by the end of June 2018 when the linear accelerator machine is installed and commissioned. The machine will be launched on the 10th of July at the Cancercare Border Oncology Centre.

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