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Island Health seeks to increase mid-Island chemotherapy capacity

Island Health exec discusses oncology network with Nanaimo Regional Hospital District board
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Work is ongoing at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital for a number of projects, including on a new high-acuity unit. (Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation photo)

Plans for a new cancer centre have been revealed, but Island Health nevertheless wants to improve current treatment at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

David Boychuk, executive director of capital management financial projects and public-private partnerships at Island Health, was in front of Nanaimo Regional Hospital District’s board at their April 9 meeting, seeking funding for hospital projects, including the oncology network and chemotherapy. A monetary figure was not provided by Island Health.

“The community oncology network … around the ambulatory care building, is going to double the number of systemic therapy chairs that we have, we’ll go from eight to 16 and we will build two new replacement enclosed treatment rooms for that purpose,” Boychuk said. “The [oncology] pharmacy is not sufficiently large for a safe working situation for the staff and it’s not compliant with regulations, so we have to bring that to code in order to continue with the project.”

With the expansion into radiation therapy, there will also be need for more in-patient beds at the facility, according to Boychuk, and there is a provision to increase the number of beds by six.

Janice Perrino, hospital district board acting chairperson and former Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation CEO, elaborated on how service would improve.

“What people might not understand is that it’s not just eight patients a day, it is eight patients per treatment,” she said. “In other words, there might be 30 or 40 treatments in a day, some of them require one hour, some four, some six. Some people need to be laying down and others can be sitting up.”

The hospital district passed a $48-million budget this year, featuring a 28.2-per cent increase to the hospital district’s tax requisition to prepare for a number of future projects, including the cancer centre and a new patient tower.

Ian Thorpe, hospital district board chairperson, told the News Bulletin a new cancer centre and the oncology network requests are not listed in the hospital district’s 2024 budget.

A cancer centre was promised by the B.C. government during the 2020 election. At an April 16 press conference, Adrian Dix, B.C. health minister, said construction on the $289-million, three-storey facility at NRGH is projected to take three years, from 2025 to 2028. It will feature a PET/CT scanner, and four “linear accelerator vaults” that house radiation equipment.

-files from Jessica R. Durling/News Bulletin

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