Yellowknife's Stanton Hospital welcomes its first chemotherapy patient back to the facility on Thursday following a four-month suspension of services.
Hospital staff were given extra training and policies were rewritten during the suspension, at the suggestion of a review conducted by Alberta's health service.
Cabin Radio visited the hospital ahead of the resumption of treatment. We spoke to Les Harrison, the hospital's chief operating officer, and physician Dr Shireen Mansouri about what has changed and what happens next.
Shireen: We suspended treatment because we wanted to look at how we were actually delivering chemotherapy, and we also know it’s a rapidly evolving field and standards have changed significantly. We knew that the field had been evolving and the training requirements were likely evolving with that, and hospitals in Alberta went through a similar process.
Les: Nursing training included safe practice in terms of medication administration, what to do if a patient has a significant reaction to toxicity, that kind of thing. They would have known some of this but they now have a lot more information. Even things like the type of personal protective equipment - we changed our PPE to make it a safer approach for our staff as well.
Shireen: The difference in treatment now may not be as apparent to the person receiving the chemotherapy as one would think, but it has increased the depth of knowledge of both the nurses and physicians. The other thing the training has done is it has allowed us to be more in line with all of the Alberta standards, and for that to be ongoing.
We want to maintain that link in terms of training. We have a commitment with CancerControl Alberta to maintain that partnership and maintain an ongoing connection, so as the field evolves, we will evolve with them.
One of the biggest changes will be an increase in the amount of patient education.
Background: Some chemotherapy services resume in Yellowknife
Les: In the new facility [being built next door to the current hospital], the chemotherapy unit will be specialized. We have already changed some job descriptions and specialized some of our nurses. Previously, some would be working in both medical daycare and chemotherapy. Now we’ve specialized those roles.
On the nursing side, we have three people where previously we had two. It’s a small program. We now have three and we’re going to hire an additional position to help with coverage. A lot of this is about sustainability and ensuring we always have a strong service for people.
The chemotherapy suite has also been remodelled to provide more privacy. There are more privacy curtains in place, and we will ensure nothing else is happening in the chemotherapy suite other than chemotherapy. We have ensured there are appropriate workstations and machines in place.
The number of patients affected by the suspension would have been between 35 and 40 people. We currently have 29 in our program, of which we’ll be bringing 10 back in this first phase. Those are the patients for whom chemotherapy is less toxic and less challenging. As time goes on, we would look at opportunities to repatriate more complex cases.
Shireen: It's obviously difficult to tell a patient they need to start travelling to Edmonton for chemotherapy, and it would be wonderful not to have done that. But knowing what the end goal was made it absolutely manageable.
Les: We’re really proud of our staff and they were very excited about this, to try to take this kind of effort to improve this program and to make it meet all of the best practices in the field.
I think the staff feel more confident in the work that they’re doing. It really has helped them and encouraged them. Some patients have struggled with this change but overall they have been very positive as we have made these improvements.