More access to cancer treatments for rural area

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sanford Health is making the treatment process for some cancer patients a little easier. 

Through its virtual infusion program, patients in rural areas are able to get treated without spending time and money getting to their appointment. 

It’s been a five-year journey with bladder cancer for Vermillion native Jack Powell. He’s thankful for his wife who is by his side during all of his treatments.

“I’m just very fortunate to have her in the picture, I drive up here, she’ll drive back and stuff like that. The treatments here, they’ll run maybe 3, 4 hours,” Powell said. 

And with the driving time, you can add an extra two hours to his appointments. But a Sanford Health program is lowering driving time and gas money for rural patients being treated for cancer. 

“Through virtual infusion they can get their treatments in their rural setting. They have access to expert oncology care from a nurse practitioner here, and we provide oversight,” Sue Halbritter said. 

Halbritter, a nurse practitioner at Sanford hematology and oncology, says there are two virtual infusion centers in South Dakota located in Vermillion and Armour, as well as one in Worthington, Minnesota.
She says the program hopes to expand in the future.

“It’s really cutting edge which gives me a lot of hope,” Powell said. 

The program isn’t only saving patients time and money, but also making their treatments go as planned. 

“Here in Sioux Falls if a patient has a reaction to a medication we stop the treatment, we treat the side effect and then we resume the treatment, oftentimes the patient gets the full treatment and goes home. In a rural setting they would stop the treatment, oftentimes send the patient to the ER, who would stabilize the patient and then send them home, and they wouldn’t get their full treatment,” Halbritter said. 

She says it’s important that patients receive their full treatment. With this program that is made possible, which Powell is thankful for.  

“When I heard about it I said I want in! It just seems like some things happen at the right time,” Powell said.

For more information on Sanford’s virtual infusion program, click here.

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