For the sake of $5000, scalp-cooling machine sits dormant

2 minute read

The Gold Coast Health-run University Hospital let the ‘life-changing’ machine sit unrepaired until a media report kicked Queensland Health into gear.

Queensland Health lowered the boom quickly this week after press reports that Gold Coast University Hospital was letting a state-of-the-art scalp-cooling machine lie unused because of a $5000 maintenance bill. 

The $46,000 British-made Paxman machine cools the scalp through a cap to reduce blood flow, reducing the damage from chemotherapy drugs to hair follicles, therefore reducing hair loss. It was given to the hospital to trial in May 2021 after fund-raising from a local GP and Rotary Club. 

Twenty-two private hospitals across Queensland have them, but the Gold Coast University Hospital is the only public one. According to The Courier Mail, “the hospital declined to have the machine serviced yearly, as recommended by Australian distributor Regional Health Care Group, and it broke down in July when it was out of extended warranty”. 

It costs $5000 annually to have the machine serviced and maintained. 

After the damaging report appeared, Queensland Minister for Health Shannon Fentiman got on the front foot. 

“I have met with women who took part in this trial and understand just how important this service is for people undergoing cancer treatment — especially women,” she said. 

“I am committed to ensuring this service remains available. 

“As soon as I became aware of this situation, I asked Queensland Health to immediately find a solution so that these patients could continue to participate in the trial. As a result, the machine is now undergoing repairs. 

“Chemotherapy is hard enough – these women deserve to have world class care while receiving their treatment. 

“Once the evaluation is complete, I would love to see scalp cooling treatment rolled out to other public hospitals across Queensland. 

“Repairing this machine and resuming the trial as soon as possible is the right thing to do.” 

A spokesman for Regional Health Care Group said the machine required three sessions – an initial cooling time of 30 minutes, then the application on the patient during chemotherapy, and a cooling down period of up to 90 minutes.  

He said the machine was mobile so patients could do the pre and post sessions anywhere, not taking up any more time in the chemotherapy chair. 

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