Message from the SMICS Clinical Directors
All of us would agree that no one could have planned for 2020. Indeed, this year has been extraordinary in many ways for the SMICS team. We are proud to have been able to support our member health services in various service improvement initiatives regardless, even during the COVID-19 pandemic with various restrictions in place.
Models of Care
With an ageing population and a rising cancer incidence with age in Australia and many developed countries, geriatric oncology has been a focus in cancer care both internationally and locally. While geriatric oncology models of care have been set up in other states across Australia, the uptake in Victoria is still in its infancy. SMICS led the state-wide geriatric oncology scoping project which culminated in a workshop held in November 2019. It was well attended by various stakeholders including consumers, oncologists, geriatricians, nursing and allied health as well as representatives from the government. The top priority areas for future work in the sector have been identified and amongst others, include geriatric screening for cancer patients aged 70 and over as well as identifying referral pathways for appropriate services post comprehensive geriatric assessments.
Following the success of the recent grant call for cancer services to set up Symptom and Urgent Review Clinics through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), SMICS prioritised funds to support its member health services which have not been able to set up similar services. Grants amounting to a maximum of $110K each were awarded to Alfred Health, Cabrini Health and Peninsula Health in the midst of the pandemic with dedicated staff support from SMICS to facilitate the rollout of the service. This occurs at an important time when cancer patients undergoing systemic anti-cancer therapies need timely access to advice to manage treatment related toxicities while avoiding unnecessary presentations to the Emergency Departments.
Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Network (VCCN)
Andrew and Zee Wan had the privilege of joining hands with Professor Grant McArthur and A/Prof Sue-Anne MacLachlan to co-chair the taskforce within this network which was set up in mid March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing together stakeholders involved in cancer care from all over the state. Both of us are also members of the Cancer Expert Reference Group where regular communications and actions ensue in response to the pandemic to health services leadership groups and government. Andrew is the representative on the COVID-19 and Unintended Consequence Committee while Zee Wan chairs the Telehealth Expert Working Group. In addition, various SMICS staff members are also deployed to support the various working groups within the network including the Ethics Expert Working Group and the various tumour stream working groups. There has been unprecedented engagement between the clinicians and the various members of the Victorian Integrated Cancer Services (VICS), which prompted nimble response to the changes in cancer care such as administrative support for telehealth implementation at member health services.
Optimal Care Pathways
Most of the work around the Optimal Care Pathways is coming to a close. Plans to roll out the next tranche of OCP’s (namely CNS tumours and Melanoma) have been stalled by COVID-19 and the planned tumour summits have been delayed. On the other hand, work on the Pancreatic radiology synoptic reporting project has continued and is about to begin at both the Alfred Health and Austin hospitals.
Re-branding of Victorian Integrated Cancer Services
As the usual face to face meetings at DHHS are replaced by virtual meetings, re-branding of the VICS also occurred online and brought about a uniform logo and brand to the various ICS across the state.
As we emerge from the other side, this year has been challenging for everyone on many fronts. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has catalysed the engagement and collaboration of the various cancer sectors and stakeholders like never before and we hope this will continue well beyond the pandemic.
A/Prof Andrew Haydon