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Cancer Care Ontario doctor impressed with NHS Oncology Clinic

Posted Dec 1st, 2011

Impressed with the care; impressed with the physicians and staff.

These were two of the key takeaways for Dr. Carol Sawka, Cancer Care Ontario’s Vice-President of Clinical Programs and Quality Initiatives, after a recent visit to NHS’s Oncology Outpatient Clinic.

Dr. Sawka toured the clinic and reviewed some of its publicly reported quality indicators, including data on how the NHS Oncology team has managed to shrink the wait time between the initial referral and the patient’s first consultation to 14 days for more than 90 per cent of new patients.

Dr. Sawka said she was pleased with the direction staff are taking in improving quality patient care at the clinic and in preparing for the opening of the Walker Family Cancer Centre in spring 2013.

As planning for the new regional cancer centre progresses, Dr. Sawka stressed the importance of making family physicians partners in the process as much as possible. A higher number of patients will be able to receive their cancer care in Niagara once the new cancer centre opens, and family physicians will be key in referring patients to the centre.

Dr. Sawka applauded the work of the Lung Diagnostic Assessment Program staff, which is a partnership between the NHS, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton , the Juravinski Cancer Centre and Cancer Care Ontario. Since the program was introduced a year ago, the wait time for diagnosis has dropped dramatically – from an average of 95 days to 27 days. Patient satisfaction has also increased significantly.

Dr. Sawka credited the team for its success and acknowledged the work of the Nurse Navigator, Colleen Stang, who coordinates all aspects of care for patients, providing guidance and support during this difficult period of uncertainty. Colleen currently meets with patients in Niagara once a week.

Dr. Janice Giesbrecht, Medical Director for the NHS Oncology Program, said Dr. Sawka’s visit helped to validate the hard work and dedication of the Oncology Clinic staff.

“We are definitely going in the right direction and will continue to strengthen our programs through our partnerships with the Juravinski Cancer Centre and Cancer Care Ontario,” Dr. Giesbrecht said. “We are following the community’s directive of pathways to excellence and journeys with compassion.”

Dr. Giesbrecht said the program is building excellence through innovation, research and education.

“We’re going to continue considering diagnostic assessment programs, and navigation activities in diseases other than lung cancer. This is already taking place with our Multidisciplinary Consultation Conferences where a team of doctors meet to review a patient’s records to determine the best treatment plan.”

During a presentation to Oncology Program staff, Dr. Sawka provided highlights of the six key strategies from the Ontario Cancer Plan, the provincial action plan to improve cancer services. One of the goals is to have 90 per cent of chemotherapy treatment visits documented electronically using a physician order entry system by 2015, something the NHS Oncology Program has been doing for the past 20 years.

The CCO’s Cancer Plan goes a step further. By the same year, patients will be given the tools they’ll need to identify their own personal lifetime risk of developing cancer.

“Every person in Ontario will be able to calculate their own cancer risk profile,” said Dr. Sawka.

For more information on Cancer Care Ontario’s Cancer Plan, please visit

Niagara Health System