Building Hope-Ballarat Health Services

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-By Kristy Attard

“You have cancer” are three of the most devastating words anyone can ever hear. According to the Cancer Council of Australia, one in two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. Fortunately, there is a tremendous amount of work going on in Australia surrounding cancer research, support and treatment. The good work of the Australian medical and nursing professions, government and charitable groups is giving people battling cancer hope and reasons to look forward.

Ballarat Health Services (BHS) is currently under way with the construction of a major project, the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, which will provide generations of Australians cancer treatment and care. “Certainly in terms of Ballarat Health Services it’s a very substantial project and we’re indebted to the state and federal governments for their support,” says BHS CEO Andrew Rowe.

New Development

The demand for radiotherapy services in Ballarat and the Grampians region has been increasing quite substantially. At the present time, Ballarat has a cancer treatment facility called BAROC (Ballarat Austin Radiation Oncology Centre) which is located at the St John of God Hospital Ballarat. The facility has one linear accelerator that is becoming dated.

“Essentially, a linear accelerator is a highly sophisticated piece of equipment that fires an X-ray output into tumours and other cancers with a view to shrinking and trying to eliminate them.” It can take approximately three months to replace and commission a linear accelerator. If the existing machine were to break down then there could be a three month delay to install a new machine and recommence the service. This would create very substantial disruption to the treatment of patients.

There was a definite need for a new and expanded radiotherapy facility to serve the community, and so in 2009 BHS set about pursuing government funding. In conjunction with Austin Health and St John of God Hospital Ballarat, BHS made a submission to the Commonwealth Government and received $42 million under the Health and Hospitals Fund. The State Government provided a further $13 million for a total of $55 million. The Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, better known as the BRICC, will be available to commence treating patients in early 2013.

Uplifting Design

The design team and BRICC architects, Billard Leece, spent a lot of time consulting with patients, families and carers to incorporate their ideas into the facility plans. The overwhelming feedback was that people wanted a facility with a light, open feel. They wanted to be able to look through windows and know what the weather was like outside. “One of the initiatives that we have been pursuing as an organisation is to make sure we give patients, their families and carers the opportunity to have input into key planning and design decision making,” says Mr Rowe. To this end, BHS has had what it refers to as a “Consumer Advisory Committee” in place for quite some time.

The five-storey clinic is being constructed on the Drummond Street site of the Ballarat Base Hospital and work has been proceeding smoothly. It is the biggest project the hospital has worked on in recent years. “One of the considerations that was built into our planning was future proofing. So what we’ve done is build a total of four radiotherapy bunkers with a view to initially installing two linear accelerators and having the capacity to accommodate two linear accelerators to meet future growth in the number of patients needing treatment. We are trying to accommodate demand not only today, but well into the future.”

Along with building the clinic to provide patients with cancer treatment, BHS is building a Wellness Centre. “The Wellness Centre is a relatively new concept in terms of cancer treatment.” The Wellness Centre will be a valuable facility providing much needed support for cancer patients, their families and carers. “In terms of fundraising we’re trying to raise $2 million and have had a number of submissions sent into philanthropic trusts,” explains Mr Rowe. “We have also made direct approaches to major organisations and individuals in Ballarat for support.” BHS has held a number of functions such as art shows, a twilight movie screening, raffles and a trivia night to help raise funds. Many more events are planned for the future and BHS has received great support from the community thus far.

Better Services

The health service is actively working to build and expand the services that it provides to engage with the community. “Receiving and responding to patient feedback is integral to improving our services. We’re actively working to be the best health service that we can for our community, both in Ballarat and the Grampians region.” Being able to see the organisation grow and reach new heights in patient care has been a highlight for Mr Rowe. “It’s a very exciting time for Ballarat Health Services; at the moment we are seeing very significant increases in the demand for our services and in response, expanding clinical services.”

BHS will look at the way in which it operates in terms of its processes to respond to the needs of the community. “The demand for elective surgery continues to increase; the demands on our emergency department have grown very substantially. For example, in 2010 – 2011 we treated 52, 601 people in the emergency department… one of our biggest challenges is just being able to meet the demand,” explains Mr Rowe. “There have been major issues in relation to the ageing of the population. The patients that we’re seeing are now older and often have a number of complicated conditions.” The health industry is finding new ways to cope with the needs of an ageing population and this trend will continue in the future.

In a hospital environment, the expertise and attitude of staff is especially critical. BHS is a large organisation with approximately 3500 staff dedicated to providing an exceptional level of service. A considerable number of volunteers work with BHS, and Mr Rowe acknowledges the important contribution they make.

Pursuing improved consumer engagement has been a main priority at BHS and a culture of continuous improvement has been adopted. “In other words, we’re not satisfied with what we currently do,” says Mr Rowe. “We are always trying to improve and provide better and expanded services to the community. We’re constantly looking at improving our facilities, our equipment and the training that we provide to staff and we certainly welcome the donations and support that we receive from the community. If there is anyone who would like to assist we would be delighted to talk to them.” With hospitals like BHS striving to excel, local communities and the Australian people have every reason to feel better.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

September 25, 2018, 8:18 AM AEST