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March 2019

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Marjorie Carter (centre) and her daughter Liz (right) with the HEN team – director of hepaticopancreaticobiliary surgery Marty Smith, nutrition support and HEN lead senior dietitian Lisa Murnane and percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy clinic lead and gastroenterology consultant Rebecca Burgell.

Alfred service provides nutrition support

Marjorie ‘Mardi’ Carter relies on a feeding tube into her small bowel for all her nutrition.

Treatment for oesophageal and breast cancer left her unable to eat and drink enough.

Now 85, Mrs Carter said the initial adjustment was a challenge.

‘Once you get used to it, it’s really quite easy.

‘But when you first start, you think, I’ll never learn how to do this.’

Mrs Carter is one of 80 patients using Alfred Health’s home enteral nutrition (HEN) clinic, led by consultant gastroenterologist Rebecca Burgell and senior dietitian Lisa Murnane.

The HEN service gives people access to tube feeding formula and equipment at home. It involves a team of specialist dietitians, doctors, nursing and allied health care professionals.

‘I can’t imagine being left to do it without the team – it would be very difficult,’ said Mrs Carter’s daughter, Liz.

Children and adults who need HEN often require access to a number of services, which can result in fragmented care.

The Australasian Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (AuSPEN), led by Alfred dietitian Caroline Flood, is undertaking a survey across Australia and New Zealand to better understand how HEN services are provided.

AuSPEN president and manager of nutrition services at Alfred Health Ibolya Nyulasi said the integral role of nutrition in improving health was becoming increasingly recognised.

‘We hope this project will help inform policy to ensure quality and timely care across services for people who require this lifesaving therapy to prevent and treat malnutrition,’ Professor Nyulasi said.

Mrs Carter has overcome her initial fear of the feeding tube.

‘If you have to be tube fed, don’t be frightened of it because it works.

‘It’s just fantastic – it’s a wonderful thing that someone has discovered.’