With an ultimate goal of reducing cancer-treatment wait times to 60 days or less from date of suspicion to treatment, Prairie Mountain Health will establish a cancer service hub.
CEO Penny Gilson said they will be looking at ways to streamline processes across the entire region, which encompasses the former Brandon, Parkland and Assiniboine regional health authorities.
“Are there barriers to being able to achieve that goal? And if there are then we need to work on and improve those processes so that we contribute to that no longer than 60 day commitment,” Gilson said.
Prairie Mountain Health will receive funding to hire the equivalent of three full-time patient navigators, who will try to determine the processes that need improvements so a patient’s journey through treatment can be as smooth as possible.
“I think we have to all work together to identify opportunities for short- and long-term improvements in the cancer patient journey,” Gilson said. “We want to look at things like rapid diagnostic work-ups and being able to support primary care providers … so there’s lots of work to be done.”
Earlier this week, the province announced it will hire more pathologists and technologists to reduce wait times, as health authorities prepare for higher rates of the disease in an aging population.
The province will add eight pathologists, 35 technologists and two test co-ordinators to speed cancer testing, as well as expand the number of cancer service hubs in rural areas to cut driving time for people living outside Winnipeg.
The first hub opened in Morden-Winkler last year. New locations are to include Brandon, Selkirk, Steinbach and Thompson. Eventually, about 15 will be established across the province.
While some specialized treatment will still only be available in Winnipeg, Gilson said the goal is to make most services available as close to home as possible.
“We want to be able to make sure that people, regardless of where they live in the Prairie Mountain Health region, are able to navigate through the system, and to know how they get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible in their cancer journey,” she said.
Gilson said Prairie Mountain Health is establishing a cancer hub working group, which will consist of senior leadership team members, physicians, front line providers and patient navigators.
In June 2011, the NDP government announced a five-year, $40-million strategy aimed at reducing cancer-treatment wait times — from a family physician's first suspicion to treatment — to 60 days or less. Currently, the wait is between three and nine months.
The strategy comes at a time when cancer rates are set to skyrocket. In the next 15 to 20 years, the number of Manitobans diagnosed with cancer is expected to increase 50 per cent, according to a report the government released Tuesday.
More than 6,100 patients are diagnosed each year with cancer in Manitoba, and up to 10 times that number are suspected to have the disease before it is ruled out.
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from the Winnipeg Free Press