East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook. Google maps photo

East Kootenay officials continue to lobby province for radiation therapy in Cranbrook

Conceptual building plans for new oncology, renal departments should be ready by October

Local officials are continuing to lobby for radiation therapy services at East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, as Interior Health continues to eye a new building for oncology and renal departments.

Conceptual plans for a new building should be ready by the fall, however, future radiation therapy services aren’t currently a part of the project’s scope, according to the latest update from Interior health during last week’s Kootenay East Regional Hospital District board meeting.

While the business plan for the new building is expected to be complete by October, Interior Health has also requested additional funding from the board due to cost pressures. However, the board has previously made an extra $100,000 available with the caveat that radiation therapy be included alongside the oncology and renal department planning process.

Though the business case is expected to be ready in a few months, the ship hasn’t sailed on the potential for radiation therapy services, according to David Wilks, the mayor of Sparwood and chair of the KERHD board.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Wilks said. “You’re building a new building; why wouldn’t you look at it?”

Wilks said he is planning to meet with Health Minister Adrian Dix at an upcoming local government conference in September to discuss the matter. Wilks also added there are other sources of funding outside government that have expressed interest in contributing to the project.

In the East Kootenay, capital health care infrastructure projects are cost-shared typically at 40 per cent by local and regional taxpayers and 60 per cent by the province.

Currently, Kelowna — a seven hour drive away from Cranbrook — is the closest city with radiation therapy services. Furthermore, East Kootenay residents are also unable to access radiation therapy services in Alberta, where communities such as Calgary and Lethbridge are geographically much closer.

During discussions around the hospital board table, some directors shared anecdotes they have heard from constituents, such as budgeting up to $8,000 a month to find a place to live and bear other associated costs while undergoing radiation therapy in Kelowna.

“Most of the people in the Okanagan and the Interior can do day trips back and forth,” said Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Price. “It’s an inconvenience, [but] they can do day trips.

“Nobody from the Kootenays can do day trips.”

Approximately 230 East Kootenay-based cancer patients travel to Kelowna for radiation therapy treatment services a year, according to information provided by the province earlier this spring.

There are six BC Cancer clinics that provide radiation therapy services in the province — Kelowna, Abbotsford, Prince George, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria.

The provincial government recently announced a plan that would allow cancer patients to seek radiation therapy services at two facilities in Washington State.


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