Patients call for better cancer care

The B.C. Cancer Agency has cutback access to the city's only medical oncologist, prompting calls for change.

Jocelyn Pedersen

Jocelyn Pedersen

Nanaimo-area residents are calling for better cancer services north of the Malahat, after the B.C. Cancer Agency scaled back access to the city’s only medical oncologist.

The B.C Cancer Agency moved Dr. Carole Most, the only medical oncologist based north of Victoria, from Nanaimo to its Vancouver Island Centre in Victoria last October for four days a week.

The cancer agency says the move was necessary for Most to collaborate with other oncologists and become a specialist, and that the shuffle has not affected cancer care for Nanaimo patients. The medical oncologist is still available by phone and video conference and is taking patients at the city’s community cancer clinic once a week. There are also two general practitioners of oncology still at the clinic.

But residents say asking patients to discuss their battle with cancer via video conference, wait for an appointment or drive south to Victoria for in-person visits is an erosion of service. They question the rationale behind centralizing the Island’s cancer specialists in Victoria, which now has 15 full-time equivalent oncologists, pointing out that driving south can add stress and could be a problem if a disaster prevented people from crossing the Malahat.

They are calling for the return of the oncologist five days a week and greater community cancer services for residents living between Duncan and Port Hardy.

“We were totally shocked and all of us were in tears when [the oncologist] told us about this, having to go to Victoria,” said cancer patient Jocelyn Pedersen. “I mean, to ask for one doctor to be able to stay a week instead of [going to] Victoria isn’t much when you have [15] in Victoria. We are not asking for the moon or anything.”

The cancer clinic at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital saw a  medical oncologist hired three years ago. Patient visits increased from almost 3,000 to 3,500 by 2012, prompting a $1.8 million clinic renovation. In the 2013-13 fiscal year, the clinic reports 7,034 patient visits, including 3,421 face-to-face visits with a physician.

Now, in-person visits to the oncologist in Nanaimo have been scaled back  and patients want to see that move reversed.

Bette Ainsworth, a three-time cancer survivor and clinic volunteer, said the loss of in-person access is unfair to patients and she hears complaints in the chemotherapy room in which she volunteers.

“We’d really like to have at least one,” Ainsworth said. “I think really [we] require two or three to handle the traffic that we get but even if we have one, we’d all feel better.”

Reg Hawkes, a Nanoose Bay resident with colon cancer, said his oncologist is a champion for his care. He doesn’t want to communicate by video.

“If you have cancer and you are losing the battle, do you really want to sit and talk to a microphone and look at a TV set to talk to your doctor? It’s not really warm,” he said.

Hawkes wants more services for patients outside the province’s capital including a cancer centre for the central and North  Island.

“We are all paying taxes and they are all dumping it into the Victoria clinic. It’s a gorgeous place. It’s a palace. And up here we don’t even have one oncologist [full-time],” he said.

In an e-mail, a spokesperson for the B.C. Cancer Agency acknowledged change can be upsetting for patients.

There are no plans to build a second cancer centre on Vancouver Island.

Just Posted

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

An event on the lawn of the B.C. legislature in Victoria on Tuesday to remember the 215 children whose remains were confirmed buried in unmarked graves outside a Kamloops residential school. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Canada’s racist systems cannot ever be forgiven

Teen letter writer from Nunavut calls for truth and reconciliation

Nanaimo is the first city in Canada to subscribe to the Chonolog environment photo-monitoring system, which allow residents to contribute photos of habitat restoration projects that are converted to time lapse sequences showing environmental changes. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)
Nanaimo residents invited to be citizen scientists by sharing habitat restoration photos

Nanaimo first city in Canada to sign up for Chronolog environment photo monitoring service

Regional District of Nanaimo is seeking input from the public for its transit redevelopment strategy. (News Bulletin file)
Public input sought as RDN works on transit redevelopment strategy

RDN wants to know where people want bus stops, shelters and pedestrian and cycling connections

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps near Nanaimo

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Stuffed toys, many with donations pinned to them, are piled in the Lions Pavilion at Maffeo Sutton Park at a vigil May 31 honouring the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered outside a residential school in Kamloops. (News Bulletin file photo)
Thousands donated to child and family service agency following Nanaimo vigil

Toys and money donated to Kw’umut Lelum child and family services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read