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Cancer care clinics in Yarmouth and New Glasgow will not be suspended after all

A frozen and burst pipe caused some flooding in Building C at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
A frozen and burst pipe caused some flooding in Building C at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. - Tina Comeau
YARMOUTH, N.S. —

Cancer care clinics in Yarmouth and New Glasgow will carry on as usual now that the provincial government has approved two new full-time positions for Halifax-based medical oncologists.

Word of the new positions comes in addition to a one-year locum to provide more immediate support while recruitment efforts are underway.

Earlier in October it had been announced that cancer care clinics in Yarmouth and New Glasgow – which happen once or twice a month – had to be suspended because the oncologists traveling to these clinics from Halifax had too high a workload.

There was concern over burnout for these doctors.

Dr. Drew Bethune, Senior Medical Director for the NSHA Cancer Care Program, calls the new positions very good news for staff and patients.

“This is absolutely wonderful news for cancer patients being seen in Yarmouth and New Glasgow clinics and government’s acknowledgement of the current strain on our medical oncologists,” Bethune said on Oct. 30.

“With the guarantee of two new positions, the one-year locum and a part-time General Practitioner Oncologist position in Kentville, Halifax-based medical oncologists have indicated they are able to continue clinics in Yarmouth and New Glasgow, beginning with the November clinics,” he said.

Bethune said the news has been shared with the clinic teams in Yarmouth and New Glasgow and those teams are in the process of notifying patients.

“We have also shared this news with Yarmouth Hospital Foundation Board members, Yarmouth and area municipal councillors, Yarmouth Steering Committee working to enhance cancer and with the coordinators of the Western Cancer Care Support Group Facebook page,” Bethune said.

He said now that these positions have been approved, the process will begin to post and recruit for them.

The cancer care clinics were first established to cut down on the amount of travel that cancer patients needed to do to access treatment. It was stated last month there were 47 patients using the clinics in Yarmouth and 65 in New Glasgow.

At the traveling clinics new patients meet with an oncologist for an assessment where different treatment options are explained. The intention is to ensure patients can make an informed decision about their treatment. While the clinics see high volumes of patients, it’s not necessarily the same patients during each clinic. And the doctors also only see patients for certain cancers.

There was concern that without the clinics some patients may forego necessary treatment and consultation because travel to Halifax was a barrier for them. There had been discussion of enhancing and increasing telemedicine options.

Bethune had said at time of the announcement of the suspension of the clinics that a Halifax oncologist should have 160 patients per year on their list.

“The treatments are so complex that it amounts to 2,220 to 2,400 interactions with reviewing results or charts,” he had said. “Right now, I believe the two coming to Yarmouth are scheduled to have about 200 patients on their roster per year. So it’s become really hard.”
Meanwhile, the NSHA Cancer Care Program continues to follow up on a cancer care review of services that took place in Yarmouth last year, examining the delivery of cancer care in southwestern Nova Scotia.

“Our work continues on that front, which includes a workshop in Yarmouth on Nov. 14 with working group members including two Yarmouth area patient advisors,” Bethune said, adding they will keep the community informed of the progress.

BACKGROUND:

Oct. 21, 2019: Word of suspension of cancer care clinics

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