Hospital offers new range of cancer care

  • Sep. 9, 2009 10:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay-Costly and stressful trips to Prince Rupert or Vancouver for cancer care may become a thing of the past, thanks to new services offered at the Queen Charlotte Islands General Hospital. The hospital has been offering limited chemotherapy services for years, said Dr. Tracy Morton at an event held Sept. 2 to celebrate the enhanced range of care now available to patients island-wide. “But now were are able to promote it as a service.” In the past, he said, the doctors were able to treat some patients on a one-off basis, but now the hospital has a cancer care team including two oncology-trained doctors, Dr. Morton and Dr. Jamie Chrones, a certified chemo-nurse, Robin Pozer, and an oncology pharmacist, Daryl Regier. Dealing with fragile chemotherapy drugs, which had to be mixed in Prince Rupert and flown over to the islands by float plane, has been a safety issue in the past. Mr. Regier now has access to a small building, built by hospital maintenance staff, where the powerful chemotherapy drugs can be mixed in safety. The building has a high-tech vented mixing hood, which the pharmacist can reach into with gloved hands, never having to come in contact with the potent medicines. At the event, hospital administrator Kerry Laidlaw was credited with making sure these enhanced cancer services were made available on the islands.”Thank you to Kerry. It was his dream and he quietly pushed it forward and was able to meet the required standards with the amount of money we had,” said LaDonna Fehr, clinical manager of system cancer therapy strategy with Northern Health in Prince George. She, along with three other Northern Health officials were on the islands last week. She said Haida Gwaii cancer care will offer more than just chemotherapy. “It is a whole spectrum of care from prevention, to screening and diagnosis,” she said. The hospital has a tele-health facility that will allow patients to be seen by doctors in larger centres for follow-up care and possibly diagnostics in the future. Northern Health provided $55,000 in funding for upgrades to the hospital including a triple line IV pump, the vented mixing hood and treatment room furnishings. Thanks to $8,000 from the Hospital Day Foundation, a flat screen TV with wall mount, a leather lounge chair and new hospital bed were purchased for patient comfort during treatment. The enhancements are part of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy (an initiative of Northern Health, the BC Cancer Agency and the Provincial Health Services Authority), which aims to improve cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and palliative care for Northern BC residents. Ms Fehr was pleased to see some former patients who had completed their treatment in Prince George at the event. In the future, patients will be able to go to a larger centre once and never have to leave the islands again, she said. Several members of the public spoke at the event. Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha said, “all of our lives have been touched by this disease. It’s meant so many had to leave us or didn’t get the treatment they needed because it was too expensive to go off-island.” She thanked everyone for their dedication in making this service a reality. Babs Stevens spoke for the Skidegate Band Council. “Congratulations to the Queen Charlotte Islands Hospital because this hospital is here for all of us to use on Haida Gwaii.” Two prayers were offered at the event, one by United Church Minister Nancy O’Higgins of Port Clements and the other by Pete Thompson of Skidegate.