Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said he is “delighted” to hear B.C. political parties promising a cancer care centre for the city on the provincial election campaign trail, an issue that has been top of mind.
“That radiation oncology is really life-saving,” Christian said, calling it an issue that is important to Kamloops. “You’ve got a situation where you have people from Kamloops go all the way to Kelowna for what is essentially 15 minutes of radiation and then they have to come back. That’s been the issue.”
Christian, who is also chair of the Thompson Regional Hospital District board, said the board expressed desire for expanded cancer care in Kamloops during its last meeting with B.C. Liberal candidates and incumbent MLAs Todd Stone (Kamloops-South Thompson) and Peter Milobar (Kamloops-North Thompson).
Christian said cancer patients can receive chemotherapy and surgery in Kamloops, but cannot — without specific equipment, a facility and staffing — receive radiation therapy here.
As a result, patients in need of radiation head to Kelowna or Vancouver. Christian said he started looking into the issue with the BC Cancer Agency and Interior Health and discovered two out of five linear accelerator machines in Kelowna are utilized by Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap patients, running up to 20 hours per day.
The issue, Christian said, is the equipment is expensive and also requires facility oncology technicians to operate.
“I made the argument that that needs to come to Kamloops and they’ve obviously picked up on that now and they’re doing it,” he said. “I fully support their initiative to commit government to doing that.”
This week, the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP both announced cancer centres in Kamloops, if elected on Oct. 24.
On Tuesday (Oct. 6), Stone and Milobar announced a $5-million investment in local cancer care. The following day, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan announced a cancer centre for Kamloops as part of a 10-year cancer care plan for the province.
The issue of a cancer centre was not listed amongst several issues raised by B.C. mayors in a recent release sent to all political parties. Christian said the B.C. Mayor’s Caucus put forward issues impacting communities collectively.
“It’s just because we had so much consensus in around the four that we chose and those were really all of the cities, whereas Kelowna doesn’t have an issue with radiation oncology,” he said.
Other local health-care needs cited include cardiac care and recruitment of specialists.