Photo courtesy of Jim Peacock

There’s rarely a soul today who has not, in some way been impacted by cancer. Over the years, there have been remarkable advances in the protocol for chemotherapy and cancer care. Working with the BC Cancer Agency and the oncology team in Victoria, the cancer care team at St. Joseph’s has provided exceptional care and kept pace with these advancements.

Since 2007, after undertaking a much-needed upgrade and expansion to support cancer care, the hospital has continued to provide a suitable location equipped with all the modern technologies for patient care and treatment.

What once was a cramped, confined, windowless space located outside the emergency department is now a bright, spacious, naturally lit area specifically designed to treat cancer patients in a comforting environment. The Cancer Care Unit, funded 100% by community donations, also includes an outdoor patio, waiting room, a patient education centre, two examination rooms, patient and staff washrooms, and a nursing station.

With the addition of Telehealth that enables patients to be in touch with health professionals across distances, the Cancer Care Unit has became a patient treatment center with all the provisions for accessible information. For cancer patients with myelodysplasia (blood related cancers), treatment is available right here in the local area thereby eliminating the unnecessary and often overwhelming commute to Victoria or Vancouver for the same treatment.

But there are limitations in the number of patients that the Cancer Care Unit can comfortably and efficiently care for. When the new unit opened in 2007, St. Joseph’s had 1,900 patient visits in the first year. In 2013, the unit had 4,780 patient visits. Add to that the radical development in drug administration that calls for up to four different medications in one single visit, and St. Joseph’s becomes severely taxed on space available to each patient.

Faced with the reality of a growing and aging population that will continue to give rise in the number of cancer related cases and the fact that acute care services, which includes the testing for cancer diagnosis and treatment, will move to the new Island Health Comox Valley Hospital by 2017, St. Joseph’s still remains steadfast in its commitment to the delivery of safe quality care to this community.

“The complexity of cancer treatment is more advanced today. More drugs are involved, protocols are more sophisticated and the duration of treatment is longer,” explains Jane Murphy, St. Joseph’s President and CEO. “There’s a significant rise in the number of assessments, which is a trigger to a growing number of cancer related cases we will treat.”

To be proactive today to address these rising statistics and to ensure sustainable health and care, St. Joseph’s will undergo an efficient yet affordable expansion of the Cancer Care Unit. Set to begin this fall, the modest expansion will involve securing 150 sq. ft. from rehabilitation services to allow more space to comfortably accommodate five treatment areas, a patient center area and the room for the additional equipment necessary to care for immune compromised patients safely and efficiently.

“This is a no frills approach but essential for maintaining safety and quality,” said Eric MacDonald, Vice President Finance Capital and Support Services. “Over the years we have worked hard with BC Cancer Agency in maintaining protocols. What we established is a gold standard in the level of cancer care. No one unnecessarily has to leave his or her community to receive treatment and we are committed to keeping it that way.”

The Comox Valley is very fortunate to have a specialized cancer care team in our community. This renovation will provide the space needed to help ensure cancer patients can be treated in a comforting environment, free from overcrowding. The budget for the cancer care renovation and equipment is $85,000. With your support, St. Joseph’s can make the changes needed to ensure our friends, families and loved ones battling cancer continue to have the best available care Here, Now, and Beyond at St. Joseph’s General Hospital.