High River Cancer Centre expansion has green light
Health: New Calgary facility will complement foothills services
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 06:00 am
Expansion plans for a foothills cancer centre serving more than 100 patients a month will proceed despite an announcement for a new $1 billion cancer clinic for Calgary.
Lise Brisebois-Blouin, Alberta Health Services (AHS) director of central community rural health in the Calgary zone, said the consensus among AHS representatives during a meeting on March 6 was the High River Cancer Centre in the High River Hospital remains an important part of health care in southern Alberta.
“We are part of the whole plan for the zone and they depend on our clinic continuing to operate and continuing to grow if we can,” said Brisebois-Blouin, whose office is at High River Hospital.
The provincial government announced on March 1 it planned to build a new cancer centre at Foothills Hospital in Calgary. The facility will replace the Tom Baker Cancer Clinic.
The new facility is not expected to affect the High River Centre or plans for its expansion.
The High River clinic offers chemotherapy and it is the lone cancer centre between Calgary and Lethbridge. Brisebois-Blouin said 2010 statistics showed the High River centre served approximately 100 patients a month.
“That’s people, not visits,” she said. “You have to remember that a person may come for a lot of visits.”
Some chemotherapy patients can receive up to 20 treatments a year. There are four treatment chairs at the High River centre.
Part of the March 6 meeting was touring the High River Cancer Centre and discuss the proposed expansion. The expansion will be done inside the existing facility and will not impact any other areas in the hospital.
Dr. Adam Vyse, one of two physicians at the High River centre, said there is still a demand for the facility despite what happens in Calgary. A new Calgary cancer centre won’t change geography.
“It won’t make the (Tom Baker clinic) any closer to High River than it is now,” Vyse said. “It will help upgrade the facilities in Calgary, but it is not going to change the fact for the people living here it still takes an hour to get there… The main advantage is it is much closer to home.”
Vyse said the High River clinic is mainly a chemotherapy centre. The High River clinic is an outreach centre for the Tom Baker Centre. If the treatment is appropriate, patients can receive their chemotherapy in High River rather than have to go to Calgary.
“There are reasons people can’t receive treatment in High River,” Vyse said. “If they need radiation, they have to go to the Tom Baker Centre or if they are getting radiation along with their chemotherapy it would be done at the Tom Baker.”
He added having treatment for cancer close to home in familiar surroundings and around people they know, can provide patients with peace of mind.
“My suspicion is we can treat people more aggressively than we would be able to if they had to travel far,” Vyse said. “They spend their energy on healing and recovery rather than traffic and parking. I think it makes for better care.”
Vyse added the expansion to the High River centre is essential to keep pace with demand.
“At peak volume times of the week, there isn’t enough space for everyone to operate,” Vyse said. “We have outgrown the volume of space we were originally allocated.”
The High River Cancer Centre originally opened in 1998 in a spare room near the hospital’s emergency room. It was moved to a bigger location when the hospital underwent major renovations in 2005.
The foothills community playing a major role in the renovation of the High River centre as well. For example, on Feb. 28 the High River and District Health Care Foundation and the High River Rotary Club signed a memorandum of understanding for each organization to raise $500,000 for the project.
The foundation is a volunteer organization, which raises funds for the hospital. It has representatives from High River, the MD of Foothills and Nanton, which are areas that use the hospital. The hospital is also accessed by Okotokians.
The foundation is raising funds for the project through its Cancer Care Close to Home campaign.
The High River Rotary Club has raised more than $90,000 for the High River Cancer Centre expansion to date.
Work on the expansion could start in the fall of 2014.
For information about the campaign call foundation development officer Cathy Couey at 403-652-0129 or visit the foundation’s web site at www.highriverhealthfoundation.ca