A lobby effort to get chemo-therapy services back to the Slave Lake Health Care Centre has generated a lot of community support in recent weeks. Offers of money, too, although at the moment there is nothing to spend it on.
Attendees at a ‘Chemo For Slave Lake’ meeting on July 23 heard that community support is one thing – meeting the requirements of Alberta Health Services is another.
The number of people requiring treatment is one factor, local AHS rep Cindy Harmata told the group. Another one is competence of staff.
In other words, “it’s not just about numbers,” she said. “Each protocol is different. Some can’t be done in a community cancer centre. (They) have to analyze the numbers, but numbers are just one piece of the puzzle.”
Harmata says it’s not the first time the numbers have been looked at. Several years ago, AHA found 150-odd people in a 125-mile radius of Slave Lake were getting chemo treatments. They would have been (as people still are) required to travel to treatment centres in Barrhead, Peace River or Edmonton. The proposal now (as it was then) is to make Slave Lake into one of those ‘community cancer centres,’ so people wouldn’t have to do all that traveling. There are 11 such centres in the province.
One of those people, Len Smith, was at the meeting. He goes to Barrhead for his treatments, and would like to not have to do that.
Harmata said in 2016, the numbers were deemed too small by AHS to warrant setting up a chemo program in Slave Lake. So what are they now? She said the radius of the circle around Slave Lake is this time being expanded to 150 kilometres, minus whatever communities in that circle that are closer to Barrhead or Peace River. The number of chemo patients in that area was not yet known, she said.
There is a business case to be made for chemo in Slave Lake. But Harmata urged the group to not get into those kinds of details too quickly. Let’s bring the Alberta cancer care team to a meeting, she suggested. This is expected to happen some time in September.
The group meets next on Aug. 18. For more information, check out Chemo For Slave Lake on Facebook. The group is trying to get its own sense of the numbers of people using chemo in the region; for that purpose there is a survey on the FB page.
Doug Babiy, the chair of Chemo for Slave Lake steering committee, says he was quite encouraged by what he heard at the meeting.
“I thought we’d have push-back from the hospital, but those guys are really positive,” he says.