Health minister takes first-hand look at Cape Breton Cancer Centre expansion
SYDNEY — Nova Scotia Health Minister Maureen MacDonald took her first tour of the Cape Breton Cancer Centre expansion project now underway at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Monday.
Following the minister’s tour, Cape Breton District Health Authority chief executive officer John Malcom said patients will be able to get better care closer to home when the cancer centre expansion is complete and new radiation therapy treatment equipment becomes operational in July or August.
The area under construction is sectioned off from the cancer centre by large plastic dividing walls. Once inside, exposed concrete floors and layers of stacked drywall fill corners of the otherwise empty space.
“For me, it’s being able to understand what treatment options are available to people close to home and whether or not we’re able to get them timely access,” MacDonald said when asked why she wanted to tour the facility.
Each day 100 people rely on the Cape Breton Cancer Centre for diagnosis and treatment. Last year, there were more than 30,000 patient visits.
The $8-million centre expansion will allow the health authority to treat many more patients, more efficiently.
“It means a decade of radiation therapy securely provided. It’s a second linear accelerator so we’re going to be able to provide more care to more people in Cape Breton. It secures the future for the next decade for cancer care here on the island,” Malcom said.
A linear accelerator is a machine that precisely targets radiation beams at a cancer patient’s tumour. It will be able to perform intensity modulated radiation therapy to be more accurate and cause less damage to surrounding tissue.
The procedure is only available in Halifax at the moment, resulting in the longest wait times in the province. Once the team at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre is fully trained on the new machine after it arrives in April, patients will no longer have to make the four-hour drive to Halifax.
Cancer patient David Sneddon said he spoke to MacDonald briefly about the importance of having a cancer centre in his community.
“It’s the ability to be able to go home, rest up and relax in the comfort of your own home surrounded by your friends and family. There’s just absolutely no comparison,” said Sneddon, a retired Cape Breton University professor who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October.
“If you’ve got a prostate and you’re 40-plus, get it checked because I had no symptoms.”
Using a financial expert to help explain some of the factors working against the three branches, the company said statistics show a decline in the number of area residents who are within the 20-30 age range.
The company says people within that age group are the biggest spenders becuase they often need loans to purchase cars and homes.
Hastings said to further investigate the economic prospects of keeping the branches open, the board has decided to put together a working committee of financial experts, credit union board members and customers. He said the company believes it could capture more business by having customers switch financial services to their credit union branch.
A study on the operation of East Coast Credit Union is expected to take place over the next 12-18 months.
Health Minister Maureen MacDonald, centre, and Deputy Premier Frank Corbett, left, speak with John Grant, chief physicist with the Cape Breton Cancer Centre, during a tour of the cancer centre expansion project at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Monday.