CancerCare consolidation causing added stress for patients

WINNIPEG — CancerCare Manitoba is consolidating its outpatient services in Winnipeg by going from six units to four.

CancerCare says it’s in the best interests of patients as it will allow the agency to provide higher quality care, but the move isn’t sitting well with some patients.

Signe Armstrong goes to CancerCare Manitoba every four weeks as part of her continued treatment after going through breast cancer, but her routine has had to change.

“Patients were given a letter saying that Seven Oaks was closing because of COVID, so it would be temporary, and now we’ve found out that it’s permanent, and they’re closing the Concordia CancerCare unit, so there is no CancerCare unit in the north of town,” she says.

The same thing happened to Susan Mulvaney, only she was moved to CancerCare at Victoria General Hospital.

“Even though it’s only 30 minutes, and I’m grateful that it’s still available in the city, of course, but you feel safer when you’re close to home,” she says.

“It made a difference to me. I felt like I was in my community.”

In September, CancerCare Manitoba announced it would be consolidating its outpatient services in Winnipeg, meaning patients who go to Seven Oaks or Concordia would have to go to one of the other locations.

CancerCare says the decision was not an easy one, but that it is in the best interest of patients.

“The core principle of high-quality care is a multi-disciplinary model where medical, radiation, and surgical oncologists, along with specialty disciplines, come together to provide a comprehensive treatment plan for patients. This will more easily occur post-consolidation,” CancerCare says.

NDP MLA Nello Altomare, who has also battled cancer, is questioning why this is happening during a pandemic.

“I think when you consolidate, and make it more difficult for people to access, it’s going to be a big problem, and what we have now is a government that’s not matching the commitment of Manitobans,” Altomare says.

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, says CancerCare nurses are deeply committed to their patients.

“Providing services at community hospitals allows them to really develop close relationships with their patients, and more importantly, helps keep those services accessible for those patients,” she says.

Both Armstrong and Mulvaney agree this move is adding stress to people already dealing with very stressful situations.

“It’s just a whirlwind, and being close to home, having the ease of finding someone to drive me, for a seven minute drive, and they can go home or whatever and then come back and get me,” Mulvaney says.

Armstrong added that it must be particularly difficult for those going through chemotherapy.

“For people who are still going through chemo like I did last year, this must be completely overwhelming. Where you get your chemo matters because it is so debilitating and so difficult,” she says.

CancerCare Manitoba says the consolidation is still on schedule for December.

A petition has been started to reverse the consolidation.

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