The British Columbia government says central Vancouver Island residents are one step closer to having cancer treatment options available locally after a concept plan was approved for a new cancer center in Nanaimo.
BC Premier David Eby and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the approval Friday, saying a business plan is now in the works to determine the project’s size and budget.
Cancer patients on Vancouver Island are currently required to travel to Victoria or BC’s Lower Mainland for radiation therapy. Dix says the new center will treat 1,600 of those radiation therapy patients annually once fully operational.
“Getting a cancer diagnosis can be some of the most difficult news someone gets in their life,” Eby said. “We must ensure people in BC can get access to the care they need when they need it. That is why Nanaimo will soon be home to a new cancer care center. This will bring the latest life-saving technology closer to the people of Nanaimo , as well as residents of the Central and North Island.”
The province says the new center at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital will offer radiation therapy, an outpatient ambulatory care unit and a new tomography imaging machine. It will also house a new radiation-treatment space with four shielded treatment rooms.
“This new cancer center will provide services people can rely on with the latest technology so a cancer-free future can be the reality for more people in BC,” Dix said.
“Nanaimo is a rapidly growing community, so it’s important that we continue to meet the demand for health-care services as it evolves. The center will be crucial in our approach of achieving sustainable cancer care, provincewide.”
While the project budget has yet to be determined, Dix said cancer centers of this size typically cost between $200 and $300 million.
The announcement comes one day after the health minister visited Kamloops to announce the province will build a new cancer care center in that city. The new center at the Royal Inland Hospital will include radiation therapy, meaning patients will no longer have to travel the roughly two-hour trip south to Kelowna for the treatment, Dix said.
Earlier this month, the health minister announced that up to 50 cancer patients from BC will be referred to clinics in Washington state every week in an effort to reduce wait times for radiation therapy.
Cancer care at Nanaimo is currently delivered through the community oncology network clinic at the hospital. The province says the existing oncology clinic will be renovated and expanded to increase the number of treatment spaces and exam rooms as part of the approved plan.
There are also community oncology network cancer services available at the North Island Hospital campuses in Courtenay and Campbell River, as well as at the Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan.
The new centers are part of the province’s 10-year cancer action plan to prevent, detect and treat existing cancers, while preparing for anticipated growth in demand for the treatments in the future.