In the recent past, when local cancer patients participated in interactive television (ITV) consultations with out-of-town doctors, they had to go to the main St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center campus.
Now, thanks to a local couple and two local charitable foundations, the patients can consult at Heartland Cancer Center. HCC is part of the St. Rose family.
Larry and Kathy Schugart, both life-time Great Bend residents, donated most of the funds to purchase ITV equipment for the cancer center, which allows easier access to consultations in familiar surroundings. The St. Rose Foundation made up the difference.
The Schugarts became aware of the need for the equipment because of their relationship with the Golden Belt Community Foundation (GBCF). They had established a donor-advised fund to streamline their charitable giving with the guidance of GBCF Executive Director Christy Tustin.
“We actually meet with Christy once a year but are in contact with her at other times,” Larry said. “She knows about our interests and can direct us to the greatest needs. She is our pipeline.”
Tustin noted that donor-advised funds allow individuals and businesses to stay involved in their charitable giving.
“A fund is created and you can let us know how you want donations distributed,” Tustin explained. “Also, the donor can change charities from year to year without the expense of changing a will or trust.
“This is one of the most flexible tools available,” Tustin added. “We can give advice on local charities that might interest a particular donor.”
Sometimes, she noted, grants are for a specific project, such as the Schugarts’ choice to support the ITV project. Other times, donors make unrestricted grants.
The foundation serves Barton, Pawnee, Rush and Stafford counties.
Kathy Schugart, a breast cancer survivor, was treated at HCC and knows first-hand how important convenience is for patients.
“I have to tell you,” Kathy said, “it was so much easier for me to stay in Great Bend, rather than traveling to Wichita. I could go to treatments alone and be well cared for.
“Central Kansans are so lucky to have this wonderful facility right here,” she added. “It is great to be treated at a place where we like the people and are on a first-name basis. And now, this ITV capability right at the cancer center will help so many families.”
The local availability of ITV consultations is a direct result of St. Rose’s membership in the Midwest Cancer Alliance (MCA), which is associated with the University of Kansas Cancer Center. In addition, the MCA partnership created the new position of research nurse to focus on cancer patients.
Cathy Huber, who filled this job recently, said she attends ITV appointments with patients and their families; medical records are sent to KU prior to the appointment.
“I take notes so the patients can concentrate on what the doctor is saying,” Huber said. “With this wonderful equipment they can see the physician and the physician can see them in real time. So far, we have been scheduling about four consults per month and patients have been very pleased with the service.”