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Partnering for cancer care

Posted Mar 18th, 2008

Niagara, ON - Providing the people of Hamilton and Niagara with access to a full range of high-quality cancer care is at the centre of a new agreement signed by Cancer Care Ontario (CCO), Juravinski Cancer Centre/Hamilton Health Sciences (JCC/HHS) and the Niagara Health System (NHS).

The agreement, called a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), will bring together all of the cancer care providers in the Niagara region as Regional Cancer Program (RCP) partners under the leadership of Cancer Care Ontario.

"The signing of this MoU is a significant and exciting step in planning for the new regional Walker Family Cancer Centre and in advancing cancer services in Niagara," says NHS President and CEO Debbie Sevenpifer. "Working collaboratively provides our three organizations with increased opportunities to share best practices and standards as we plan for the future and create the strongest possible cancer program for patients in Niagara."

Focused around providing the patients with high-quality cancer services, the RCP will work to better coordinate the delivery of cancer services between the cancer centres in Hamilton and Niagara. The agreement includes the following guidelines:

  • Provide the highest standards of cancer care and provision of care as close to home as possible;
  • Maintain independent hospital governance;
  • Maintain optimal use of health professionals to foster recruitment and retention that supports cooperation, not competition;
  • Represent all three parties on a newly established steering committee that oversees the development of the integrated partnership model;
  • Establish service level agreements if/when one hospital provides service to another.

"Bringing together the cancer services of Hamilton and Niagara in one overall, well coordinated Regional Cancer Program, is an important step in ensuring that the people in this area have access to high-quality cancer services," says Terry Sullivan, President and CEO, Cancer Care Ontario. "Working together, we will be better equipped to respond to local cancer issues and needs so that we can continually provide cancer patients with the highest quality of cancer care, as close to home as possible."

Each partner will benefit from the partnership as each gains expertise from the other: CCO sets standards, develops guidelines, administers provincial programs and ensures accountability through public reporting on cancer system performance; JCC/HHS provides comprehensive cancer care services for the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN and conducts both basic science and clinical research; and NHS operates an Outpatient Oncology Clinic and conducts clinical trials research. Services provided by the NHS include consultation, diagnostic procedures, education, support, chemotherapy treatment and follow-up for the vast majority of cancer patients in Niagara. The NHS Oncology Program will evolve to a full-service cancer centre, including radiation therapy services, when the new health-care complex opens.

"The creation of the Walker Family Cancer Centre with the addition of a second site for radiation therapy in our region gives us a great opportunity to improve access to high-quality cancer services for patients and families in Niagara and throughout the region," said Dr. Bill Evans, President, Juravinski Cancer Centre and Regional Vice-President for Cancer Care Ontario. "This MoU is our commitment to each other and to our region that we will deliver on this goal and bring care as close to home as possible."

Specific examples of benefits to patients that are already occurring because of this partnership include multidisciplinary conferencing among specialist physicians on complex cases as well as training and mentoring of physicians in new therapeutic approaches. Hamilton-based personnel have helped in facilities planning and will participate in equipment selection for the new regional Walker Family Cancer Centre in St. Catharines. Future benefits will include joint human resource planning, shared services such as radiotherapy device construction in a shared workshop, and common information systems to assist patient management.

This MoU is the first agreement of its kind in Ontario and demonstrates the high level of local cooperation that supports the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network's (LHIN) integration and joint planning mandate.

"The mission of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network (HNHB LHIN) is to ensure availability of, and access to, services in order to improve the health of the population and the continuity of health care," explained Pat Mandy, CEO of the HNHB LHIN. "This arrangement between the Niagara Health System, Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton and Cancer Care Ontario supports this mission and we are pleased our health care providers are working together to ensure residents of our LHIN receive the health care they need."

About the partners:

The Niagara Health System is Ontario's largest multi-site hospital amalgamation comprised of six hospital sites and an ambulatory care centre serving 434,000 residents across the 12 municipalities making up the Niagara region. Among services offered, the NHS operates an Outpatient Oncology Clinic and conducts clinical trials research. Services include consultation, diagnostic procedures, education, support, chemotherapy treatment and follow-up for the vast majority of cancer patients in Niagara. Once operational, the new cancer centre will become the hub of a coordinated regional cancer treatment network for Niagara, serving the more than 2,500 Niagara residents diagnosed with cancer each year.

As a regional cancer centre, the Juravinski Cancer Centre works with hospitals and community partners to provide timely access to expert care and treatment for cancer patients living in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN. The JCC, part of the Hamilton Health Sciences family of hospitals, provides chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for patients and a variety of services including genetic and psychosocial counseling, nutritional services, education and supportive care. Through its affiliation with McMaster University, the JCC is actively involved in laboratory research and clinical trials to discovery and apply better treatment methods for cancer.

Cancer Care Ontario is the provincial agency responsible for continually improving cancer services. As the government's cancer advisor, Cancer Care Ontario works to reduce the number of people diagnosed with cancer and make sure that patients receive better care every step of the way.

Niagara Health System