MediStays’ supports accessible and affordable medical accommodation for all Australians.
Here’s how rural and regional patients can safely access Radiation Therapy in the city.
Last week MediStays founder and Managing Director, Sarah Everitt, attended Parliament House in Canberra for the “Shining a light: Radiotherapy cancer treatment in Australia” report launch.
Dr Sarah Everitt (BMedRad PhD) is highly experienced in radiation therapy and cancer research within her career. When MediStays was invited to contribute to the report, Sarah knew that MediStays expertise in patient accommodation would support stakeholders to develop key recommendations around access to care.
This timely report on radiation therapy in Australia is crucial. It not only outlines the barriers Australians face in accessing lifesaving radiation therapy. It also provides robust, actionable steps to utilise our existing healthcare ecosystem in even more innovative ways.
MediStays was included in the report because of our directory of nationwide accommodation and financial assistance that supports Australians diagnosed with cancer.
How does MediStays support country patients to access radiation therapy?
MediStays founders, Sarah and Craig, have decades of experience working in specialist cancer hospitals. During this time, they have supported countless country patients to receive life-saving radiation therapy.
Yet, our founders have also listened to many of these country patients and their loved ones share how challenging it was to travel for life-saving care. This was a major contributor leading to the creation of MediStays.
Rural and regional Australians needing specialist healthcare face unique and isolating geographical challenges that impact their ability to access lifesaving treatments.
At MediStays, we are proud to partner with trusted, reliable accommodation providers to assist patients, their families and carers with ‘accommodation when they need it most’.
From hotel rooms to fully self-contained apartments, standard to fully wheelchair accessible, overnight to six month stays, the needs of our community are broad.
While these barriers are complex, it is part of MediStays core mission to ensure all Australians can safely and easily overcome geographical barriers to access specialised care for their unique situation.
The intent of this timely report is to ensure that all people who would benefit from radiation therapy are fully informed of their best options, and have safe and affordable access to care.
While there is so much further we can progress to resolve all barriers for country patients and normalise optimal and accessible care, the report by EvoHealth resulted in three key recommendations.
What are travel and accommodation recommendations for country patients?
The MediStays platform and supporting service addresses the third recommendation:
“Support a national directory of travel and accommodation for those needing to travel for cancer treatment.
The service will include available services provided in each state and territory and provide guidance on eligibility.”
Here are the highlights of MediStays contribution to the report (REF 1):
“Who are MediStays?
MediStays was co-founded in 2016 by Associate Professor Sarah Everitt and Craig Everitt, who both have a background in Radiation Therapy (RT). The core catalyst was their personal experience of a family member’s difficulties in accessing accommodation and financial assistance. This was in preparation to travel over 650 km for emergency cancer surgery.
The overwhelming research at the time showed that Australians in rural and regional areas faced significant barriers to care if they needed access to specialist medical treatment. That meant any factor that reduced those barriers – such as an easy way to find the most suitable and cost-effective accommodation – could potentially save lives and improve treatment outcomes.
In five short years, MediStays has become a vital part of the community of care that puts its arms around Australians when they are confronting a health crisis. This circle of assistance and comfort includes health referrers, hospitals, medical centres, disability coordinators, peak bodies and policymakers. It also takes in those rural and regional communities that are famous for rallying behind their own in times of great need.
To date, MediStays has supported over 30,000 nights’ accommodation for patients and carers. MediStays’ vision is to create a world where finding a trusted, comfortable place to stay is no longer a barrier to optimal care. A world where anyone with a medical condition, disability or other vulnerability feels safe in the knowledge that the right accommodation can be found quickly and easily. A world where everyone gets the same high-quality healthcare, regardless of their point of origin.
This vision is shared by the entire MediStays team, who are committed to removing barriers to care through the provision of quality, trusted accommodation. Central to this effort are MediStays Care Navigators, who guide Australians through the complex and often stressful process of finding accommodation to support their hospital visit or disability support plan.
Benefits of MediStays:
- Partnerships with multiple national and state-based accommodation and financial support organisations.
- Assessment of patient eligibility for financial support schemes. Care Navigators; one-to-one relationship with patient and family.
- Verification of accommodation to meet individual needs (E.g., access for medical equipment and clinical staff, wheelchair access, dietary requirements, cohabitation with primary carer and COVID-19 isolation requirements).
- Real-time navigation software to ensure current and most appropriate accommodation for each patient and family.
- Heavily discounted and long-stay rates. Coordination of payment from various support schemes. No additional cost to patients.
Endorsed by the Victorian Minister for Health and Director for Rural and Regional Health, MediStays is now featured on websites including the Better Health Channel, hospitals and community groups.
In 2023, MediStays will be announcing further partnerships with hospital and healthcare networks Australia-wide.
Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2020, John required six weeks of concurrent radiation and chemotherapy in Melbourne. Living on the Victorian Gippsland coast, John’s initial diagnosis had already been delayed due to the bushfires.
“Like everyone here, I was just thinking about getting things back on track after the fires. I thought my cough got a bit worse due to the smoke…didn’t think it’d be cancer.”
Fortunately for John, he was reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team in Melbourne with the recommendation he undergo six weeks curative intent treatment. John shared “the problem was that I didn’t know where to stay and basically couldn’t afford it. It was all a bit much and, to be honest, I was pretty tempted not to go. Luckily for me, my friend had recently been at The Alfred for a heart bypass and told me about MediStays.”
John’s wife called MediStays who arranged everything for his upcoming journey and ensured he could access world-class treatment without delay. In John’s case, MediStays rates in a fully self-contained apartment were $105/night (best available public rate $159) and they linked him to the Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme (VPTAS) subsidy.
“I saw a lot of people at the hospital and they were very good. I received the best care. But I think it’s hard for them to understand the barriers for country patients. Finding somewhere to stay and no-one mentioned the financial assistance …
… Without MediStays I would have paid more for my accommodation and wouldn’t have known about the VPTAS. Either that or I wouldn’t have travelled at all”.
|John’s journey distance:||Melbourne to Orbost 746km round trip.|
|Treatment:||Six weeks concurrent radiation therapy and chemotherapy|
|Accommodation:||Fully self-contained one bedroom apartment|
|Without MediStays support:||Accommodation $159 @ 42 nights, No VPTAS TOTAL= $6678|
|With MediStays support:||Accommodation $6 @ 42 nights = $252 plus $100 for first year claim.|
|Financial saving to John:||$6,326 (plus VPTAS support for petrol costs)|
Overall recommendations for key supports to country patients receiving radiation therapy:
To increase RT utilisation in Australia, the report developed a set of three recommendations aimed at addressing the most significant obstacles identified in this report. The solutions are provided at a macro level below and detailed in the next chapter of the report.
These solutions have been designed to be simple and easily implemented within the existing policy frameworks of the Australian healthcare system.
Further details of the Report’s ‘Recommendation Three’:
Support a national directory of travel and accommodation for those needing to travel for cancer treatment. Travel, accommodation, and lost productivity costs have been shown to be a significant barrier to people accessing RT treatment.
There are services and funding available to support patients with these costs, however they are spread across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, making it difficult for patients to navigate.
The directory should include available services provided in each state and territory and provide simple guidance on eligibility. This directory should be maintained to provide up-to-date information.
Further, the directory should directly link in with the regional nodes to ensure streamlined and consistent information for patients and utilisation of supports.”
Supporting greater access to radiation therapy for country patients in Australia:
You can view the full report, including MediStays feature on page 34 – 35: Shining a light: Radiotherapy cancer treatment in Australia – Evohealth
Authors: Renae Beardmore, Claire MacNamara, Dr Farwa Rizvi and Dr Jodie Hillen.
Design: Naomi Guest
Photographer: Dean Mitchell, & amenic181
Thanks so much for reading our updates on supporting all Australians from rural and regional communities to access specialist health care.
We will continue keeping you updated on our best and latest accommodation options for patients and families Australia-wide.
Whatever your unique situation, we encourage you to contact our Care Navigator team directly to discuss the needs of your location and accommodation requirements.
Our Warmest Regards,
Dr Sarah Everitt (BMedRad PhD) and the MediStays Team
1. Beardmore, R et al., 2022. Shining a light: Radiotherapy cancer treatment in Australia.
Available at Evohealth: evohealth.com.au/media/shining-a-light.pdf
Image Credit: Paul Fenton (CEO Cancer Services, Icon Australia and New Zealand), Sarah Everitt (Managing Director, MediStays), Rebecca Cortiula (Senior Managing Director Australasia, Varian), Mark Middleton (Global CEO, Icon Group)