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Goffinet, Carstens, Chapman and Fehr.
REPORTING · 4th April 2010
Walter McFarlane
There was a special meeting of the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group on Thursday April 1st after the announcement Northern Health is reviewing Chemotherapy services in Kitimat.  In attendance were guests, LaDonna Fehr, an Oncology Nurse for 30 year and Doctor Ronald Chapman, with the Cancer Control Program.  The question of the luncheon meeting was:  "What can the people of Kitimat do to maintain services in the hospital?"

“...My mandate is to improve cancer services across the spectrum, and that’s looking at preventative services through to acute services, and part of that mandate is the development of the new cancer center in Prince George.  So in all these particular areas, we are working to try and identify what are some of the deficiencies and how we can improve those deficiencies.  One of the areas I’ve been concentrating on particularly are the cancer centers, the community cancer centers, and looking at how they comply with BC standards.  If they don’t comply and actually work together with their communities, we get them to comply to those standards,” said Chapman.

They started looking at Kitimat last June but did not start the process until November; particularly looking at the volume of patients, which they found was fairly low.  He said this was not a problem, as they want to have treatments done as close to home as possible.  Their primary concern was safe treatment because they are dealing with toxic drugs which have side effects they need to manage.

The report on deficiencies in the service and how the program was not in compliance with standards came back.  Following a meeting the previous Wednesday night at the hospital, they decided there are changes which could be made at the hospital in order to  comply with the standards.

Chapman’s organization has requested a report from the Kitimat General Hospital and Northern Health on how they plan to meet the challenges in Kitimat, to be approved by Chapman and the Cancer Agency.  Until they can review the recommendations to make the service sustainable, the Oncology service is going to remain in Terrace.  He suspected this could take  up to three months.

Doctor Derek Carstens expressed concern over how long the report has already taken, and was not impressed the new report could take another three months.  However, he was told the time line was now up to the hospital, and not them for this new report.

Chair of the meeting, Councillor Rob Goffinet asked Carstens to comment on the deficiencies.  Carstens replied patients have to be centralized to the doctors who can do chemotherapy.  In addition, their files have to be centralized to the hospital and space has to be made for this work.  He did not think this would take three months.  It could be done in two to three weeks.

Another obstacle was the nurse delivering the chemotherapy.  He expressed they had to work with Terrace to make the program work as the nurse had to work in both places.  Carstens also said they need to cooperate with hospital administration to make this work.

Chapman suggested there needs to be a support system for the nurse, as they have had a high turnover of nurses in the hospital, 6 in the last 5 years who have been trained in Kitimat.

The floor opened for questions.  Mike Dray pointed out the road to and from Terrace was difficult during the wintertime.  He said the concerns of the patients were being put aside for the concerns of Northern Health, the nurses and the doctors.  Chapman responded they are concerned with the safety of the patients within the hospital.  He said he hopes to get the services back in Kitimat as soon as possible.

Dray was not finished.  He wanted to know if this problem relates to the budget.  The reply was it was not money.  It was collaboration and working together.  Mayor Joanne Monaghan wanted to know what part Northern Health would play in all this.  The reply was they will have to work on the plan with the doctors.  The majority was in Chapman’s hands.

Feldhoff asked about the standards of patient care across the province.  He wanted to know why Vancouver Island could have so many digital mammography units while the Northwest did not have any.  Chapman replied the province had done a study for digital mammography right before the economic downturn.  He added he believed the physicians contributed to the mammography units on Vancouver island.

Another question asked was about space.  Chapman explained this was space to move files from the Doctor's office.  This was the main recommendation.  It was pointed out although the number of cancer patients were low, there were a lot of people dieing of cancer.  There are only 11 patients being treated in Kitimat in opposition to 36 in Terrace.  Monaghan asked and confirmed: no patients from Kitimat were being counted among the Terrace patients. 

Monaghan pointed out she knew 16 people in Kitimat who needed Chemo.  Fehr said her list was of patients who were in the program.  Monaghan retorted these were people who were being treated in Vancouver.  Fehr said they do not count those numbers because they do not treat them.

Denise Welsh said the reason they go to Vancouver is because they do not wish to travel the bad roads to and from Terrace.  She also pointed out people coming out of Chemo are nauseated and have a vomiting sensation and if they cannot get a ride, they have been told there is the bus to and from Terrace.

Feldhoff warned: statistics have to be looked at carefully.  Goffinet reminded them Kitimat has an effective cancer run.  He added the lanterns in the Luminary Ceremony are growing closer and closer together every year.
It was also pointed out Kitimat was trying to be advertised as a retirement community.  If they did not have Oncology, Kitimat becomes less attractive as a retirement community.

Goffinet concluded the meeting by summarizing what had to been committed to both in the doctors meeting and the KHAG meeting.  The patients would to be centralized under the care of both chemotherapy trained doctors the hospital (which was considered committed too), space has to be secured in the hospital to accommodate the filing system and a secretary for the service (which is on going), and the citing and apportioning of time of the oncology nurse who will work in both Terrace and Kitimat.

“The numbers are not the problem, it’s merely getting a service in our hospital so that whomever needs chemotherapy could safely go, and we’ve got a commitment that we are working with you, NHA, and the community of Kitmat that we can move quickly within one month,” said Goffinet.

The next regular meeting of the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group is scheduled for April 10th.