Slave Lake chemo group getting started again

Seeking cancer treatment stories

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

A group which is trying to get chemotherapy in Slave Lake hospital has started advocating again after a three-year hiatus.

‘Chemo for Slave Lake’ started the summer of 2021. By October of that year, it had gathered various stories of the need for this medical procedure locally and met with the Cancer Care Alberta (CCA).

But they didn’t get what they were hoping for. As reported in the Nov. 2, 2021 Leader, CCA said official numbers of people needing chemotherapy in Slave Lake and surrounding area aren’t enough to justify a local chemo unit.

That was the end of the lobbying for a time.

In February 2024, various members of the initial Chemo for Slave Lake group attended an Alberta Health engagement session on the restructuring of health care in Alberta. Then in the spring, Doug Babiy and Harry Bartlett from the chemo lobby group met one-on-one with Lesser Slave Lake MLA Sinclair about the need for chemo in Slave Lake.

“He is quite interested,” says Babiy.

Babiy’s interest in the chemo treatment situation arose when his daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I was driving her in for weekly treatments to the Cross,” he says, referring to the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. As a result of that experience, Babiy decided to look into what it would take to offer chemo in Slave Lake.

As it stands, cancer patients from Slave Lake and surrounding areas have to go to Edmonton or Barrhead for chemo. It would make a lot of sense, Babiy says, to locate treatment in Slave Lake.

“We are central for this health region,” he says.

Local hospital administration was supportive in 2021, and still is, Babiy says. In 2021, hospital manager Keith Carlson and the Family Care Clinic manager Johan van der Nest spoke up in favour of offering chemo in Slave Lake, as reported in The Leader.

The initial push was during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Babiy. That, plus some administrative and staffing changes made it seem there was no point in continuing the effort.

That has changed.

“We’re trying to reactivate,” says Bartlett.

The first step is the same one made initially in 2021 – gathering people’s stories about traveling for chemo treatment.

“We want to know the stories,” says Babiy. “It’s not numbers. This is people.”

For instance, Babiy knows of at least three people who didn’t bother getting cancer treatment because they didn’t want to travel.

To post your stories about having to travel for chemo or why chemo in Slave Lake hospital would help you or your loved ones go to https://www.facebook.com/chemoforsl, which is a Facebook page. People who are not on social media or don’t want to post publicly, can email Babiy at dmbabiy@telus.net.

In the future, there may be some fundraising.

“We know the potential for raising funds,” says Babiy. At his daughter’s funeral, for example, the group raised $19,000 for Chemo for Slave Lake. This money is sitting with the Slave Lake Hospital Auxiliary until it can be used.

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