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02 Sep 2020
2020 09-Sept

Fighting the cancer corner during COVID-19

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
  • Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium
Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Network (VCCN)

Since March this year, the VCCC has been working with Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium (MPCCC) on a collaborative project known as the Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Network (VCCN).

As a workforce-led initiative, this has provided an agile response to the rapidly evolving issues created by the pandemic which are affecting everything from treatment guidelines to staff wellbeing.

The network is supported by the Victorian Integrated Cancer Services and is provided with vital decision-making data by the Victorian Cancer Registry. Cancer Council Victoria is also actively involved and is providing a vital interface with the Victorian community. Consumers are included as members of all the committees (there are 17 expert groups) and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is also represented.

The VCCN quickly grew to over 750 subscribers (500 of these are also members of an online VCCN collaborative workspace on Slack). Representing almost every discipline and interest, and over 100 organisations across the State and beyond, the network has manifested a real-world demonstration of what can be achieved through major collaborative efforts towards a shared purpose.

A dynamic response

The VCCN’s approach has been organic, reactive and dynamic – the things public health care systems really can’t be – and there is not an organisational silo in sight. There is, however, an incredible level of commitment, compassion and dedication to ensuring best possible care for patients and to supporting each other during these extraordinary times.

The network has delivered clinical guidance within specific tumour streams, and provided advice on topics such as telehealth and ethics; as well as advocacy on key issues such as surgery guidelines, access to care for patients in border areas, workforce wellbeing and more. This has been enhanced by a series of educational lectures and panel discussions, as well as public health campaigns promoting the safety and importance of cancer diagnosis and care during the pandemic. Thanks to support from DHHS, two VCCN telehealth program managers have been appointed to roll out a multi-site telehealth patient and clinician experience survey and scope the telehealth needs across cancer services post-pandemic.

The VCCN approach and collaborative outputs have provided much needed unification during the time of crisis. As a result, care and treatment provided to patients across the state has been more consistent and importantly, health care professionals have been better supported to deliver optimal care.

An initial survey to gauge the opinion of members about the future of this network concept, once COVID-19 has been tamed, indicates strong support for this concept going forward.

In the meantime, the VCCN will continue to fight the cancer corner to make sure the needs of patients and workforce are heard - and prepare for the worrying surge in cancer cases that inevitably lies ahead.

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