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Step taken toward complete cancer care in Kamloops

A long-promised cancer centre is one step closer following hospital district meeting

A long-promised full cancer centre for Kamloops is taking its first tangible step, the Thompson Regional Hospital District (TRHD) board was told on Friday (Jan. 20).

Dianne Kostachuk, Interior Health's director of business operations, presented the hospital board with its annual list of funding requests that exceed $100,000 during its latest meeting. Included in the report is a $600,000 budget item to draft a cancer services business plan at Royal Inland Hospital. The TRHD is being asked to contribute $240,000 to create the plan.

The list of items will be up for consideration in the TRHD's 2023-2024 budget to be approved in March.

TRHD chair and Kamloops city councillor Mike O'Reilly told KTW the inclusion of a business plan is a "big step forward" in a full cancer centre becoming a reality in Kamloops.

"It's very tangible," O'Reilly told KTW. "This is a big step forward. Any time a major capital project is done, a business plan needs to be done beforehand, so this is a big step forward for Kamloops and the entire region."

O'Reilly said there's no timeline for the facility to be built yet and he expects a potential location will come out in the business plan.

All capital initiatives over $100,000 are subject to approval from the provincial government.

In a report to the board, Interior Health stated the business case will develop a plan for the delivery of cancer care and supporting hospital services for patients at Royal Inland Hospital, creating much-needed capacity for cancer treatment in the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap health service delivery area.

O'Reilly said the hospital board asked to review the list of funding requests earlier this year to give them more time to consider the requests ahead of approving a bylaw in March.

Kostachuk told the board the plan will look at expanding cancer services at RIH based on projected need and data for the whole suite of cancer services, from diagnosis to treatment. That business plan will also consider additional parking at RIH, she said.

Hospital board director and Kamloops Coun. Dale Bass asked if oncological radiation would be included in that business plan, to which Kostachuk confirmed the business plan would consider. Currently, cancer patients living in the Kamloops region requiring radiation treatment must travel to Kelowna General Hospital.

The business case comes following a broken election promise from the NDP government.

In October 2020, a week before the provincial election, then-incumbent premier John Horgan appeared at a press conference at Thompson Rivers University, where he promised that an NDP government would build a full cancer centre in Kamloops within its four-year mandate upon being elected.

As of about early 2021, however, the government backtracked, with Health Minister Adrian Dix committing to building the centre within a 10-year time frame.

The NDP also promised a cancer centre for Kamloops when it was in power in the 1990s, with that promise never coming to fruition.