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Health authority conducting public survey as part of review of cancer services in western Nova Scotia

The Yarmouth Regional Hospital. TINA COMEAU
The Yarmouth Regional Hospital. TINA COMEAU - Tina Comeau

Deadline to complete survey is April 6

YARMOUTH, N.S. – As a review of cancer services continues – that includes an exploration of whether radiation services could and should be located at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital – input from patients, caregivers and the public is now being sought through a survey.

The deadline for completing the survey is April 6.

“Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) wants to provide cancer care as close to where patients live as is safely and sustainably possible,” reads an introduction to the survey.

The health authority says the review that is underway includes gathering and studying data and asking patients and families what they think about cancer services in this part of the province.

Four patient/ public advisors are members of the Steering Review Committee. There have been discussions with community leaders in the region. Twenty-four patients and family members took part in recent focus groups held in Yarmouth.

Now the review process is being opened up even wider as more input is sought.

“Nova Scotians who want to share their thoughts about cancer treatments and services available in Yarmouth and the surrounding area are invited to complete a survey,” the health authority states.

The survey is available both online and on paper. The link to the online version is: https://www.engage4health.ca/care-close-to-home.

Some of the questions included in the survey are:

• Have you or has someone close to you had to travel to Halifax for cancer services?

• Were there things that made going to Halifax for cancer treatment difficult?

• Did anyone have to take time off work or school to drive you or someone close to you to Halifax for treatment?

• When is it reasonable for patients to travel to another area of the province for cancer treatment?

• Besides radiation therapy, what other things could we do to improve access to cancer services in your area?

Access to comprehensive radiation therapy services being available in southwest Nova Scotia, and specifically at the regional hospital in Yarmouth, has been a longstanding topic of discussion and interest and has been raised on a number of occasions between 2012 and 2017, the health authority says.

Dr. Drew Bethune, medical director of the Nova Scotia Cancer Care Program, told the Tri-County Vanguard previously this is a complex issue and many factors are being taken into consideration during this review, including a study of recent cancer statistics to determine the potential number of patients in southwestern Nova Scotia who would benefit from radiation therapy at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital; sorting out the cost of purchasing, maintaining and designing/building a space to house the needed equipment; determining the size, makeup and budget for a clinical team needed to operate a radiation therapy service; considering other cancer priorities and needs across the province and the trade-offs that would be necessary to add radiation therapy services in Yarmouth given the cost.

But Bethune also said another thing that has to be considered is the human toll – he called it a critical component to the review.

“On the one hand there’s the hardship of patients travelling and making decisions based on the travel to Halifax for radio therapy,” Dr. Bethune said. “On the other hand there’s our limited resources so anything we spend money on in one place there’s a trade-off that we can't spend it somewhere else.

“I have to apply the provincial cancer lens on this because I’m responsible for everybody, people from Yarmouth and the whole province,” he said. “So there is a balance and it requires very careful deliberation.”

And it also requires opportunity for careful consultation he said.

“I’m a real expert in a lot of areas of cancer, but that doesn't give me the corner on wisdom.”

In addition the online version of the survey, paper copies of the survey are available at:

• Yarmouth Regional Hospital (Cancer Patient Navigator’s office)

Yarmouth Hospital Foundation office (main floor, Yarmouth Regional Hospital)

• Yarmouth Town Hall

• Municipality of Yarmouth office

• Roseway Hospital (reception desk)

• Digby General Hospital (reception desk)

• Collaborative Care Clinic in Digby

• Primary Care/Collaborative Care Clinic in Clare

Anyone who has questions about the survey can also call 1-866-599-2267.

The intention has been to see the review completed by late spring, with a report going to the health minister.

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