220253
207244
Kamloops  

IH says cancer centre planning continues despite shelving of funding request

Cancer centre not in budget

A top Interior Health official says behind-the-scenes planning for Kamloops cancer care expansion continues despite recently shelving a funding request for a cancer services business plan.

Tracey Rannie, executive director of Royal Island Hospital for Interior Health, was grilled by Thompson Regional Hospital District directors on Thursday about the long-awaited expansion of cancer care services.

“Everyone is passionate about cancer care. There’s lots of work looking at the whole kind of suite of cancer care for the region,” Rannie told reporters after the board meeting.

"There is, you know, planning going on. Nothing's been approved. But I will take that back, of course, to my leaders and have that conversation that there's more questions.”

On the campaign trail in 2020, former Premier John Horgan promised a new cancer care centre for Kamloops within four years if he was elected. In 2021, Horgan said the centre was part of a 10-year plan.

A list of the health authority’s capital funding requests for 2023 was put before the TRHD board in January, which included $600,000 to develop a cancer services business plan — $240,000 of which would be paid for by the hospital district.

However, the 2023 budget came before the hospital district board again on Wednesday and the cancer care business case was notably absent.

A report prepared for the board indicated that Interior Health requested the $240,000 ask be “put on hold until a meeting is held in the coming weeks with all stakeholders to better understand this request.”

Mike O’Reilly, TRHD board chair and Kamloops city councillor, asked Rannie if the request to put business case funds on hold will delay a cancer centre coming to Kamloops.

“There’s ongoing planning for the concept and business plan. Nothing has been approved but the work is continuing behind,” Rannie responded.

Several other directors, including Kamloops councillors Katie Neustaeter and Dale Bass, also asked about the cancer centre.

Neustaeter asked when the board could expect a more detailed report that will provide more understanding on “that very vague work that is being done.”

“I hear your frustration, and I will take that away and I will get back to you,” Rannie said.

Bass, a recent cancer survivor, asked if the removal of the funding request was due to bureaucracy or due to holdups with the provincial Ministry of Health.

She noted RIH has an existing cancer centre but oncological radiation is “desperately” needed in Kamloops, with patients having to travel to Kelowna to receive such care.

“I'm hearing from people who say, ‘Why do we need a business plan — we had one 30 years ago?’ Cancer continues,” Bass said.

Rannie said she couldn’t comment on that question.

“What I can say is we are a partner, so we work with BC Cancer, we work with the ministry, and I can tell you there’s planning behind, but nothing’s been approved,” Rannie repeated.

After the meeting, O’Reilly said he is concerned as a resident, and concerned for those within the hospital district that need to rely on Kelowna’s clinic to get specific types of cancer care.

“Two of the five linear accelerators in the Kelowna cancer centre are used specifically for residents of the TRHD — so 40 per cent of the linear accelerator usage in Kelowna is based on Kamloops,” O’Reilly said.

“There is a need and studies have shown time after time, better health outcome is when you do not have to travel far for care. That is a fact. Our residents are not getting the highest and best level of care, and that's what our residents are wanting and demanding.”

Rannie said IH officials will share more information when they are able to.

“I appreciate the questions and I answer what I can, and I am too passionate about cancer care and support the teams in the work and look forward to what the future holds,” Rannie said.

She said it was possible the $240,000 ask for the cancer services business plan could come before the board again this year.

“It could potentially come back as well," she said. "Like I said, the the work’s continuing, there's planning going on in behind, and that is continuing.”

On Wednesday, Kamloops MLAs Todd Stone and Peter Milobar called on the province for transparency and action on the would-be facility.



More Kamloops News