QUINTER — Residents of Gove County and surrounding areas don’t have to travel far to find first-class health care services. Gove County Medical Center in Quinter is the county’s largest employer, with close to 200 employees, four physicians, two nurse practitioners and two more doctors who will join the team in 2019.
According to Coleen Tummons, CEO, they offer both in- and out-patient care with an average of five to eight in-patients each day. That’s in addition to the 33 individuals residing in the long-term care facility.
They offer a variety of services from physical therapy, occupational and speech therapies, cardiac and pulmonary rehab, a sleep lab, labor and delivery, a lactation clinic and more.
One of their newest and most exciting developments is the growth of their Cancer Therapy Center.
Started in January 2016, the evidence-based program was developed through research from the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University. Research has shown the benefits that exercise can provide for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.
After a patient receives chemotherapy, those chemicals begin to settle in their main organs. That is why many cancer patients are left with long-lasting effects that undermine overall health.
Exercise therapy helps to push those chemicals out of the body.
“In the past when someone was diagnosed with cancer, they were advised to rest and take care of themselves,” said Liz McDonald, director of therapy services. “It’s not so much that way anymore. They actually need to exercise and get moving.”
McDonald said that in July and August, two employees attended the Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute to complete training to become cancer exercise specialists.
Following the training, McDonald and her colleague had to get the program going and write all the protocols.
The cancer therapy was funded completely by the Gove/Trego County Walk-a-Thon for the first year.
As cancer exercise therapy is not paid for through insurance yet, Gove County Medical Center secures funding so it can offer this service free of charge for now.
“We want to offer it free, because our patients have so many other expenses with cancer treatment,” McDonald said.
When a patient first comes in for an interview, the initial consultation lasts approximately three hours.
“It’s a very long process,” McDonald said. “We check their strength, flexibility and cardio endurance.”
Once they have that information, the data is used in their formulas to determine a patient’s maximum benefit and what exercises will be appropriate for them during each phase of their treatment.
“It’s very specific to the patient. It depends on the type of cancer, and it depends on what cancer treatments they are receiving,” McDonald said.
Star Hooper, physical therapist assistant, attended the training last summer.
Now she works with patients one-on-one in private exercise therapy.
Each patient has an hour of therapy three days a week.
Seven patients have undergone the exercise therapy during the last year and all have had positive outcomes.
“Patients have said, ‘I’m so glad I came today, because I have more energy now,’ ” Hooper said.
The treatments also might include addressing anxiety, nutritional needs, referrals for psychological services, specialized treatments for scar tissue and incisions and any other concerns the patient might have.
Treatments typically end with some form of relaxation exercise including deep breathing, yoga, cranial massage and more.
“We really try to be ‘that’ person for the cancer patient,” McDonald said.
As for the future of the program, McDonald said right now they’re just looking at other funding options.
“We’re applying for a grant right now to get all of us trained, and then we can have more patients. But that would also mean more funding, so we’re really trying to find more funding,” McDonald said. “I just really want to see it grow. I think it’s such a great program, and I hope we can get funding to keep going and insurance will kick in to help.”
Right now, Gove County Medical Center is the only place in this part of the state where patients can undergo such thorough, individualized exercise therapy.
All involved believe this will one day be a standard of cancer treatment. It’s just a matter of waiting for insurance to approve it.
Tummons said exercise therapy is preventative.
“This type of program, futuristically, it would save insurance companies money,” Tummons said.
For Hooper, the results speak for themselves.
“When you’re doing it with a patient and seeing it work first-hand, that’s just amazing,” Hooper said.