Four months after chemotherapy treatments at Yellowknife's Stanton Hospital were suspended, some of those services are to be reinstated next week.
In a news release issued on Thursday, the territory's health authority announced: "Some patients receiving basic chemotherapy services will begin to receive treatment at Stanton the week of April 16, 2018.
"This will be the first phase of resumed services that will allow certain patients undergoing cancer treatment to receive chemotherapy services in Yellowknife, closer to home and with reduced requirements for medical travel to Alberta."
The health authority says basic chemotherapy services can resume next week, with more complex services to be phased in over time, though no precise timeline for that has been set. Some patients will still need to travel south for treatment – which was already the case – as no new services are being added on top of those being reinstated.
Services were suspended on December 8 following a review by CancerControl Alberta, a division of Alberta's health authority. That review found staff in Yellowknife needed more training and called for the territory's chemotherapy policies to be revised.
At the time of the suspension the NWT's health authority said 30 cancer patients would be affected, requiring travel to Edmonton to continue treatment.
"During the program suspension, Stanton has been focused on making program improvements and upgrading staff training to ensure we can deliver a chemotherapy program that is aligned with our partners in Alberta and recent best practices," Friday's statement read.
The statement quoted Sue Cullen, the health authority's chief executive, as saying: "Suspending chemotherapy services at Stanton was not a decision we took lightly, but it was necessary to give space and time to ensure we could make program improvements.
"Our staff has worked very hard to make the changes required and we are confident that we can provide high-quality care to NWT residents undergoing chemotherapy treatment."
The health authority says staff have now completed two online modules of training provided by CancerControl Alberta, alongside a two-week on-site training course in Alberta and a session in Yellowknife where CancerControl Alberta experts assessed staff to ensure they understood their training.
Four doctors and three nurses have completed additional training, with more nurses scheduled to undergo training so they can act as a backup as required.
"Internal policies and procedures have been updated to align with best practice," a Q&A provided to reporters stated.
"The chemotherapy suite at Stanton has undergone physical layout changes to help ensure a better experience for patients. Information pathways for patient data have been reviewed and revised to ensure accurate and timely transfer of patient information."
Patients or families with questions about chemotherapy can call Stanton's cancer coordinator on 867-669-4310.