One of the latest weapons in the battle against breast cancer is a 12-tonne Isuzu truck that has been coated in hot-pink paint.
To boost breast-screen participation in remote Australian communities, BreastScreenNT needed to deliver the service directly.
The result is the BreastScreenNT Bus, which travels some of the country’s roughest terrain to deliver a free breast-screen service.
The more-than-capable Isuzu FTS 800 is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including mammography machine and satellite dish, to enable instant transmission of digital images to Darwin.
The service is assisting to tackle a major issue within Australia, where many remote women live in isolated areas, sometimes thousands of kilometres from medical facilities offering such a service.
One of the chief advocates of the program is Karen Forster from the Department of Health and Families.
The Cancer Screen Services Manager said the department received $1.2 million in Federal Government funds to develop the bus.
Ms Forster said the bus fulfills a crucial service.
“Many of these women simply don’t participate in breast-screening because it’s impossible for them to travel such long distances,” Ms Forster said.
“Although, statistically, Indigenous women have a lower chance of developing breast cancer, there are higher instances of late diagnosis.
“Obviously, that is an issue that needs our attention.”
Ms Forster said the project had been an incredibly rewarding experience for all those involved.
“It has not been an easy process, this was a huge learning curve for us,” Ms Forster said.
“But it has been hugely satisfying, knowing how many more women now have access to breast-screening.”
Ms Forster acknowledged it had been a major logistical effort to push along the program, which started with the truck selection.
“The procurement team had experience with Isuzu and knew the truck was reliable,” Ms Forster said.
“Let’s face it, the conditions are tough going and the equipment is highly sensitive.
“Reliability was at the core of the decision, as well as its adaptability to our needs.”
Tough, state-of-the-art design
Queensland-based company Mills-Tui was set the challenge to fit out the truck with the equipment.
Design Drafter, Isaac Goodman, said Mills Tui had one key operating brief, which was to develop a product that would endure off-road use within Northern Territory’s remote communities.
To achieve this, Mr Goodman said they combined solid design with quality materials.
“The vehicle was designed using a fully framed body, constructed from galvanized steel tube,” Mr Goodman said.
“A curved roof was installed to maximise water run-off during the wet season and to help create roof voids for running air-conditioning pipes, ducts and electrical wiring.
“The air-conditioning system was sized to provide adequate cooling, which was a critical feature to protect the delicate equipment.”
Because of the humid environment, no wood products were used.
The floor, walls and ceiling of the interior were paneled with composite aluminum sheeting, normally used for cladding the exterior buildings.
Mills Tui wanted the interior cabinetry to resemble any land-based clinic.
To achieve this look, the engineers manufactured the cabinets in aluminum with a powder-coat finish.
“We then utilised a product called Thermo-lite, from Constructive Composites Australia, to make all the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.
“All benchtops are stainless steel over a Thermo-lite substrate.”
The final product comprises reception room and breast-screen clinic room.
The truck was fitted with a roof-mounted satellite dish, underbody storage lockers, sliding glass entry door, automatic awning, and internal and external sink.
Included in the fit-out are a 9kV Durapower generator, hot-water system, dimmable L.E.D interior lighting and automatic folding entry stairs.
There are also modern conveniences such as iPod, intercom and speaker systems, while a touchscreen can activate the levelling legs, the side awning and lighting systems.
Out in the outback
Driven and operated by radiographers Sarah Webb and Louise Croft, the truck has already made successful trips to remote communities, even managing a barge trek.
The bus has the capacity to travel to 20 remote communities on a two-year rotation, with the capability of screening up to 100 women per week.
Among many locations, the bus will provide screening services in Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy, to complement services in Darwin, Alice Spring and Palmerston.
The Isuzu truck
The Isuzu FTS 800 4×4 model has a 6 speed Allison automatic transmission and is built to take on any serious driving challenge, with a GVM of 13,900kg and full-time four-wheel-drive with centre differential lock.
The powerful, yet efficient Isuzu delivers 176kW and 706Nm of torque, as well as offering advanced safety features and technologies, such as driver airbag with seatbelt pretensioner, and digital audio visual unit.
The FTS 800 comes standard with cruise control and offers the driver a comfortable ride, thanks to the ISRI 6860 seat with integrated seatbelt.