Satellite Cancer Clinic Launched in St. Thomas

Published On: March 4, 2020

Cancer patient Darlene Sytsma (seated); L-R: registered nurses Julie Metzger, Sandra Fish and Kristen Knapper at the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital

The London Regional Cancer Program has launched a satellite clinic in St. Thomas, moving a medical oncologist there one day a week so patients can get their assessments and chemo without having to travel to London.

The new consult clinic in St. Thomas begins March 10.

“We know we can speed up access to medical oncologists by having them decentralized. It also means less travel for patients,” said Neil Johnson, the cancer program’s regional vice-president and LHSC’s chief operator. “We see it as a real win-win. St. Thomas has always been a strong partner with us.”

Cancer patients already can get chemotherapy at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, but have to travel to London for appointments with specialists.

Putting a cancer specialist in St. Thomas once a week — a first for the program — means eligible Elgin County patients will be able to get consultations, treatment and follow-up without going to London, Johnson said.

The St. Thomas satellite clinic will see about 100 patients a year, but won’t be right for all cancer cases, Johnson said. Patients who have complex cancers, who require radiation therapy or who are taking part in clinical trials still will have to go to London for appointments and treatment, Johnson said.

“This is exciting news for St. Thomas Elgin General Hosptial, as well as residents in St. Thomas and Elgin County,” said Melissa Beilhartz, Manager of Communications at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital. “The new medical oncologist that will be working at (the hospital) on Tuesdays will help bring cancer care close to home.”

The St. Thomas clinic not only will benefit local patients, but also will help ease the load on the London cancer program, which sees about 8,000 new patients a year, Johnson said.

“What we’re trying to do as well is have the London Regional Cancer Program building reserved for the most acute patients,” he said. “We want to try and grow our program a little bit by using other people’s facilities and partnering with other hospitals to have care delivered there.”

Program officials will evaluate the St. Thomas satellite clinic and its impact, he said. “We can’t decentralize everywhere, but we’re already thinking about how we can actually look at this for other centres, too.”

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