Cancer Care Western NSW is a community-run charity independent of health, containing a member cohort of professional and former professional members from many areas of life with appropriate skill bases set up to provide the much-needed funding and support for the now operational radiotherapy services at the new Orange Hospital.
The organisation was formed in late 2006 and formally registered in early 2007. We are independent of Health as an organisation. We provided the responsibility of raising funds to build Western Care Lodge, an accommodation facility for regional and remote patients undergoing lengthy cancer treatment at the hospital. The facility would provide the vital support required to enhance radiotherapy services that support the 300,000 people within the medical service catchment area of the hospital. Western Care Lodge opened in November 2011.
Situated on site, a short walk to the hospital, Western Care Lodge has been operational for more than ten years. It is maintained and upgraded as required by Cancer Care Western NSW. We rely on consistent funding from private, public, business organisations and grants to support any upgrades that are consistent and ongoing both internally and externally, as we are now entering our 11th year of operation.
The strength in our organisation is the consistency of leadership.
Our organisation raised the required $ 5.4 million dollars to build and fit out the Lodge. Funding was acquired through community engagement and participation of various clubs and organisations throughout the medical service catchment area, extending as far as Cobar, Lake Cargelligo, Coonabarabran and as far down as Young, and out to Mudgee and Lithgow.
A number of grants were also obtained over a few years, and connections of support were made through corporate entities, local and state government. Many individuals who grew up in the region and attended boarding school in metropolitan locations were also helpful in supporting funding. Our organisation held a few corporate functions – dinners, along with auctions, to support the funding. Personal visits and connections have also been ongoing
One country town held an Art Union and raised $75,000.
The continuity of support for the build and the service was contagious and our organisation is tasked with collating through our board the numerous donations and visitations. One businessman organised an annual car rally over ten years which covered most of the medical service catchment area and raised more than $600,000. This was a cohesive event also providing service and location information: the most cohesive and broad-spread marketing innovation.
It would be too onerous to list all the activity-based work and community engagement which over a few years took so many hours, days and months. It was an insight into the wonderful world of community, the outback and regional and remote NSW. The world of these cancer patients who have made the Lodge their home away from home for numerous weeks.
Our journey, and the that of the regional communities and private enterprises that have supported us, has opened our hearts more, so when we were approached to support the set up funding of Cancer Clinical Trials at the Health Service, again we responded, and raised over $330,000. This provided the seed funding for these trials that have provided additional treatment benefits for rural and remote patients. In addition, we supported the Virtual Reality Trials for regional and remote NSW at the trials unit to the amount of $50,000.
The comments and smiles from guests say it all for us at the Lodge, with some making ongoing friendships that endure when they leave, with the knowledge that their communities supported and helped shape their wonderful home away from home. The Lodge has 22 ensuite bedrooms, a large communal living area and kitchen, opening onto two outdoor areas for entertaining or relaxing, a library and wonderful outdoor garden spaces enhance the areas that are used for relaxation. We are situated on a campus that has heritage gardens throughout and adjacent to a club that runs bowls and golf and provides meals if required.
Our recent upgrades include over $30,000 spent on replacing our mattresses and combined bases, as well as providing planned updates to a rear perimeter fence to enclose additional garden space.
Care for our rural and remote guests; listening to stories, knowing how hard it has been for them to leave their homes and travel so far for treatment, but secure in the knowledge that their own communities paved the way for them to stay in what they have described as five-star luxury. Knowing that they are loved and supported, making new friends, and enjoying time and space to relax. One group make the return journey for a catch up laugh and a great luncheon annually. This brings so much joy to us.
What we have achieved as a community can be undertaken by all states, by all areas where the demographics are not favourable to health and socioeconomic outcomes. It is achievable by everyone working together, the amalgamation of forces that can provide the income to add to service delivery and the ability for unification of a strong and solid unit such as we have, with the ability to work the hours, take the chances and know that we have made a difference.
Our organisation has been able to continue to make changes, to unify and direct, because we engaged community, government, local government and business. We are a group of professional people and former professionals who donate their time and have done since early 2007. Most of all, we could not have provided what we have without communities engaging with us. We are indeed blessed to have undertaken this role and continue to do so, as needs change.
One of the huge advantages to regional and remote communities that formed support fundraising groups is that it unified the communities, provided support for cancer patients, grew pride, resilience and enduring friendships.
Further examples are evident throughout NSW of communities building accommodation to support those who are vulnerable to distance and acquiring support while undertaken vital health, and often life-saving treatments. All states could achieve these outcomes and in turn support the direction of vital service provision for rural and remote health. This support is invaluable to what we as Australians are committed to – the enduring growth and support of regional services that provide the responsible requirements of ensuring that regional and remote health issues are ongoing for those who are dislocated from service provision by geography.
Being independent of NSW Health also has been an advantage as we have total responsibility for the ongoing upgrades and operational area of our Lodge. While not reliant on capital funding from health. We do have support on campus as a service provider.
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