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Work on $289M mid-Island cancer centre to begin next year in Nanaimo

B.C. health minister comes to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital to announce business plan approval
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announces a business plan is in place for a $289-million cancer centre at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (Jessica R. Durling/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo hospital’s cancer centre isn’t just a concept plan anymore.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix stopped by Nanaimo Regional General Hospital on Tuesday, April 16, to announce that a business plan has been approved for a $289-million cancer centre at NRGH.

It means that the project is ready for tender with construction planned for 2025, and an expected completion by 2028.

“It means that by 2028, the 1,400 people who need radiation therapy, the 20,000 treatments that they need, we’ll be doing them here in Nanaimo and not Victoria,” Dix said.

He noted that Nanaimo’s population is growing rapidly and is also aging, and said a cancer centre is a critical step to strengthen health services in the region.

“This is good news for Nanaimo, and Qualicum Beach, and Parksville, and Campbell River, and Port Hardy – it is good for Vancouver Island,” the minister said.

Mayor Leonard Krog, who has advocated for provincial funding for health care services in the city, called the health minister Nanaimo’s “Moses” for the day.

“I don’t apologize for being a pain in his posterior or the government’s posterior…” the mayor said. “But the commitment shown by the government in the last few years in Nanaimo has been incredibly important to the quality of health care here. It gives hope to people who work at the health-care system here in Nanaimo, and it emphasises Nanaimo is a tertiary hospital.”

The centre will be three storeys and will be built next to hospital’s ambulatory care building. It will have a PET/CT diagnostic scanner and an oncology ambulatory care unit with 12 exam rooms and four consultation rooms. The lower level will contain four “linear accelerator vaults” that contain radiation equipment.

The province said the procurement process is underway.

The scope of the project will include a single-storey addition to the ambulatory care building for a new community oncology network clinic and expanded pharmacy. The upgraded clinic will have 16 treatment bays, private consultation rooms, a medication room and support space. According to the release, the clinic will be able to offer oral and intravenous cancer treatment, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and hormonal therapy, as well as consultation, supportive care and follow-up care.

Construction will include 164 new parking spaces with a two-storey parkade next to the cancer centre as well as additional stalls in a nearby lot.

READ ALSO: Province has concept plan for new cancer care centre in Nanaimo

Tracy Irwin, chief operating officer with B.C. Cancer, said that the centre will complement services provided in Victoria and eliminate three to six hours of travel time for patients on the central and north Island.

“Having this new centre here mean residents of central and north Island will no longer have to stay away from home to access treatment,” she said. “It will help take away the stress of facing road closures and bad weather which often makes it more difficult for people to get treatment.”

The difficulty with having to travel was made personally clear to Qualicum Beach resident and VIU criminology professor Joanne Falvai who was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in November 2020. Requiring brain surgery, then six weeks of radiation and five months of chemotherapy at the B.C. Cancer clinic in Victoria, she, her husband and her three children were forced to rely on GoFundMe to temporarily re-locate. The campaign raised more than $64,000.

“I couldn’t tolerate the travel from Qualicum and we did not want to be separated from our boys so we re-located to Victoria for the duration of all of that treatment,” Falvai said. “Although we were very grateful to be together in our little [bed and breakfast] in Victoria it was really hard being away from our family, our home, all of our people.”

READ ALSO: Qualicum Beach woman thankful for outpouring of community support after rare cancer diagnosis