A TWO-AND-A-HALF hour drive from Port MacDonnell to Warrnambool was only part of the problem for retired farmers Ian and Charlotte Smith.
Another challenge was finding an affordable bed for the night while Mr Smith underwent chemotherapy.
The 76-year-old has to visit the Warrnambool Base Hospital every few months to receive medical treatment and previously had to stay in a hotel overnight, given he was too far from home for a simple day trip.
Mr and Mrs Smith now use Rotary House in Timor Street for his interstate medical visits and the couple told The Standard the newly-opened facility has saved them considerable angst, concern, confusion and cash.
“Warrnambool is a lovely town but we’re not very familiar with all the streets and just the ins and outs of the place,” Mrs Smith said.
“We stayed at a motel but that was $120 a night, plus with the petrol coming over from Port MacDonnell — it all adds up.
“When you come over here enough times it can place a lot of financial pressure on you, so I can’t praise Rotary enough for what they’ve done in setting up (Rotary House) and making you feel at home.”
Rotary House was opened in November and has been used by dozens of Warrnambool Base Hospital patients during its first six months of operations, accommodating people from as far afield as Millicent, Hamilton, Casterton and Broken Hill.
Mr Smith has been battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia since being diagnosed four months ago but has maintained a cheerful attitude despite regular hospital appointments.
“You can’t feel sorry for yourself, you just have to keep on and make the best of it,” the retired farmer and fisherman said.
“When you think about it, we live in the best time ever for medicine and all the latest technology. It’s better than what is was when I was a young fella.”
South West Healthcare nursing director Julianne Clift said while it was early days for Rotary House, many patients had commented on how the facility had helped them through difficult times in their lives.
“There is an eligibility criteria for patients and carers, so distance is one of those factors but there are other things we look at too,” she said.