A long-awaited expansion of cancer care services at Royal Inland Hospital could be inching closer to fruition this year, with Interior Health including a cancer services business plan among its annual funding requests.
Dianne Kostachuk, director of business operations for Interior Health, appeared before the Thompson-Regional Hospital District board on Friday presenting the health authority’s capital funding requests for projects over $100,000 for the 2023/2024 fiscal year.
The list of funding requests includes $600,000 to develop a cancer services business plan — $240,000 of which would be paid for by the hospital district.
“This is to expand cancer services at Royal Inland, and looking at based on projected need, data, et cetera, looking at what the long term vision for a suite of cancer services at Royal Inland, and this would be from diagnostic to treatment," she said.
"And within that, there is consideration for additional parking."
Coun. Dale Bass, who also sits on the TRHD board, asked if this plan will include oncological radiation.
Kostachuk said the business plan “is to be built around a full suite of services” which would include radiology.
Bass, who has long called for an oncological radiation clinic in Kamloops, noted the cancer care expansion has been promised for years. She said there is a great cancer clinic at RIH, but it doesn’t offer radiation.
While on the campaign trail in 2020, former Premier John Horgan pledged to bring a cancer care centre to Kamloops within four years. In 2021, Horgan said the cancer centre was part of a “10-year cancer plan.”
Bass, who had to travel to a Kelowna clinic for cancer treatments in the past, said the set up is not ideal. She said the long drive — for what can be a quick five-minute treatment — is exhausting and adds stress to someone who is already dealing with cancer.
“This is not to denigrate the clinic in Kelowna, because it's wonderful — I mean, I spent a fair amount of time there myself — but we need it here,” Bass said.
“I have been asking and getting the same answer from the health ministry, which is ‘It's in our 10-year look-ahead,’ so to see it there today, that they were going to start working on at least a plan for it was kind of nice to see, because that's something that I haven't heard up to now.”
Bass said she has been told Interior Health is hoping to have a plan together by the fall of 2023.
She said she knows an expanded cancer clinic will take some time, but “at least we got to the point where they're talking, where they're actually considering it.”
“Part of me is still skeptical that it's not going to happen," she told Castanet Kamloops on Friday.
"But the other part of me wants to believe it, largely because I found that people who presented today were very good. And I've worked with them. And I think they, they get it, and they care. And they really do represent the region.
“I’m kind of at a ‘We’ll see' — but I'm really hopeful that I see something that will help everybody.”
Interior Health’s capital funding request also includes funds for a project which will bring together mental health and substance use services inside a central hub at 235 Landsdowne St. in downtown Kamloops.
“There has been a significant increase in the investments towards mental health substance use. And so we're looking at co-locating the various services within the Lansdowne site and bringing all those services together — definitely creates a better synergy for clinicians and clients,” Kostachuk said.
She said as part of this project, administrative staff currently located in the Landsdowne Street building will be moved to a new site at Sahali Mall.
“I'm glad to see you that you're doing the work at Lansdowne Street,” Bass said in the TRHD board meeting.
“I've been through it twice now, it is an incredible thing. And it's much needed, and I thank you for doing that.”
Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson said he has toured the Landsdowne Street building, which currently operates a safe-consumption site.
"I encourage everybody to go have a look at it, because it's not just about a safe injection site when they moved it," he said.
"There's a lot of a lot of moving parts and it was very eye-opening."