Bairnsdale Satellite assessment clinic helping rural clients access vital services

BreastScreen Victoria has successfully trialled a satellite assessment clinic in East Gippsland as part of an initiative to improve access to health services for regional and rural women. The pilot program reduces travel times for women in Victoria’s east recalled for further tests after their initial breast screen.

Clients living in regional and rural parts of Gippsland may travel long distances to visit Gippsland BreastScreen Reading and Assessment Service (RAS) to attend a follow-up appointment. While most women called back to BreastScreen do not have breast cancer, the prospect of further testing and a lengthy journey can cause some worry.

Kelly Giersch, Acting Program Manager at Gippsland BreastScreen, thinks trials like this can make a big difference to clients at a vulnerable time.

“Bringing this essential service to clients in far East Gippsland reduces the stress and anxiety known to be experienced by those recalled for further assessment,” she said. “At the longest point in Gippsland, it saves clients a 700km or 10-hour road trip.”

The pop-up assessment clinic was organised by Gippsland BreastScreen and hosted by the Bairnsdale Regional Health Service on 26 November, 2 December and 10 December 2021. It was fully staffed with radiographers, nurse counsellors and a radiologist, and clients invited to the clinic had access to any additional recommended tests based on their initial screens.

The trial also coincided with the Mobile Screening Service’s two-yearly visit to the East Gippsland region, so clients who screened on the BreastScreen van that were recalled didn’t have to travel far for their assessment.

One client who screened on the mobile service in Orbost said, “From the day I had my mammogram on the breast screen bus to the prompt follow-up appointment at Bairnsdale, I received comprehensive care and treatment from the whole team. It was so much better only having to travel to Bairnsdale.”

After visiting the satellite assessment clinic, clients have the option of receiving their results online via Telehealth.

The pilot project was a finalist in the Gippsland Primary Health Awards in the ‘Better Access to Health Services’ category. This recognition is a testament to the hard work of staff and the collaboration of several key organisations across East Gippsland, in partnership with Gippsland BreastScreen and BreastScreen Victoria. Thanks to Latrobe Regional Hospital, Bairnsdale Regional Health Service and I-Med Gippsland.

“We are working on the evaluation of the project now,” Kelly said. “Based on the positive feedback from staff, clinicians and clients, we will be recommending this becomes an ongoing program, and we will be looking at other areas where it would be suitable.”