After four long weeks in hospital the patient was finally well enough to start feeling antsy.
The man wanted out and who could blame him.
He’d moved from medical, then surgical to ICU before finally settling in for an extended stay in the orthopaedic ward where he had become so familiar with the rotation of nurses he knew not only all their names, but those of their children, pets and dates of key anniversaries.
He had been so terribly sick that at one point he had four IV poles lined up either side of his bed as they pumped different antibiotics into him.
These wonderful professionals had turned around a critical situation, but now what he really needed was rest.
Hospitals are incredibly noisy places.
By definition they are also the least safe environment for someone with next to no immunity.
And, if he stayed in hospital any longer, it was possible that if not germs then the caterers would get him
My poor man had only just started to feel like eating again when a slab of steamed zombie fish wafted into his room almost under its own volition.
It seems even the kitchen staff felt so sorry for the recipient that one had thoughtfully plonked a sausage roll next to the fish to brighten up the plate a little.
The juice from the fish had been soaked up by the pastry like a surgical sponge.
Lifting the lid on this culinary delight the patient had turned the same pale quivering grey as the ex-fish.
He had already lost 15 kilos. If he was ever going to regain the necessary weight to begin chemo it wasn’t here.
Enter the HITH team or, as one of the doctors referred to them, the HIT squad.
“That seems a little extreme,” the human pincushion had joked weakly.
The Hospital In The Home (HITH) program is one of the great untold success stories of the public health system.
Started as a pilot program almost two decades ago, it now extends to 52 sites across Victoria, providing thousands of people each year with an alternative to inpatient stay or allowing them to be discharged earlier.
Patients are still regarded as in-hospital patients and remain under the care of their treating doctor.
Home visits are made by nurses who have elected to make the world at large their ward.
It means people can receive acute care including intravenous therapy, anticoagulation, wound care and chemotherapy in the comfort of their own homes.
For example, a young mother requiring ongoing intravenous antibiotic therapy need not be separated from her children and the impact on normal family routine is greatly reduced.
An elderly patient receiving treatment for, say, a deep vein thrombosis or ulcer can remain in comfortable, familiar surroundings and not fret about who is going to water the plants and feed the cat.
A meta-analysis of HITH published in the Medical Journal of Australia last year showed that the program reduces the number of patient deaths, readmission rates and costs compared to in-hospital care in a “statistically and clinically significant way”.
But the real cornerstone of HITH is the psychological and emotional well-being of the patient and their family.
It’s proof positive that in keeping our community healthy, there’s really no place like home.