Second Chance Accommodation Program

The challenge

Transplant recipients, and their carers, are required to spend three months in a mandatory rehabilitation/recovery program at The Alfred in the immediate aftermath of surgery following the transplant. In many cases this time needs to be extended. This almost daily regime, from early morning to late afternoon involves a rigorous program of tests; medical procedures and assessments; clinic visits; gym/physiotherapy; and education sessions. However, the 3-month stay is not at The Alfred; the patient and carer must find alternative accommodation close by.

The issue affects 1 in 2 heart or lung recipients and their families

Use of public transport to commute to and from The Alfred is not an option due to the elevated risk of infection caused by high levels of immunosuppressants administered in the early stages post-transplant. This regime is demanding enough for Melbourne based recipients but for regional Victorians and interstate recipients the situation can be overwhelming.

Finding adequate and affordable short-term accommodation close to The Alfred is extremely challenging and although each State Government provides a rebate for patients who live more than 100km from The Alfred, this rebate falls well short of actual inner city tariffs. The availability of accommodation deteriorates rapidly during times such as the Grand Prix, the Australian Tennis Open and other events as accommodation demands peak and in the past patients have occasionally been asked to leave their accommodation facility during these times. Most families, by the time they receive this life saving procedure, have experienced a prolonged, stressful and financially draining illness followed by a difficult pre-transplant process which includes seriously declining health and increasing psychological stress. Normal work is impossible and financial hardship is usually experienced.

Since the commencement of heart and lung transplants at The Alfred over 1,550 patients have received transplants. Incredibly, half of all transplants have been performed on persons living outside metropolitan Melbourne. Patients from outside metropolitan Melbourne come mainly from country Victoria with smaller numbers coming from South Australia, Tasmania, southern New South Wales and the Northern Territory. The challenge is that every single one of these patients is disadvantaged because of the need to fund accommodation during the immediate three months post-transplant. In comparison, those from metropolitan Melbourne are able to return to the comfort and security of their own home and so avoid this extra financial and psychological impost.

Finding an answer: The Second Chance Accommodation Program

In May 2012, HLTTV took a bold step and created the Second Chance Accommodation Program (SCAP) by partnering with the Park Regis Griffin Suites on St Kilda Road to secure and guarantee funding for two one-bedroom apartments for a period of 12 months. These apartments are dedicated for those who need it most – the country and interstate transplant patients. In an attempt to meet demand, we increased our capacity under this scheme to three apartments in October 2013. With the great success of our fundraising efforts in 2014 we were able to meet current demand and increase the number of apartments to six. In 2023 we forged a new accommodation partnership with local providers, Rockmans Apartments in an arrangements that allows HLTTV to continue to support the program after some very challenging pandemic years here in Victoria

The apartments provide post-transplant patients with quality accommodation, within walking distance of The Alfred. This becomes a place to call home for three months while they go through, possibly, the most traumatic experience of their lives. There is some financial assistance for those living more than 100km from Melbourne – each State Government pays an allocation per night to cover costs – but sadly doesn't meet the entire cost. The HLTTV, through the SCAP, is able to contribute towards the shortfall, reducing the overall burden on families.

Over the last decade, HLTTV's average yearly investments have been considerable, typically providing around $2,400 per recipient and carer for the average three-month stay.

The program is administered on a day-to-day basis by The Alfred Patient & Family Services Department (social workers). Any inquiries about availability should be directed through Jane Harris, Social Worker for the Lung Transplant Clinic (03 9076 2000).