NIAGARA, Ontario: Another new service is up and running in Niagara – an assessment clinic for possible lung cancer patients which will reduce their wait time for diagnosis and treatment.
The Lung Diagnostic Assessment Program (LDAP) is a partnership between the Niagara Health System, Juravinski Cancer Centre and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. The assessment clinic is located in new space on the outpatient oncology floor at St. Catharines General Site.
“With this new, more coordinated approach, we expect to reduce the wait time patients experience from the suspicion of lung cancer to diagnosis and the beginning of treatment,” says Dr. Tom Nolan, respirologist and lead physician for the program. “Through increased support and information from our team, we hope that patients will be less anxious about their condition during the assessment process and better prepared to make treatment decisions on a timely basis.”
Key to the program is the position of nurse navigator. This new position is filled by Registered Nurse Colleen Stang, who will divide her time between Hamilton and St. Catharines to see patients with physician specialists. One of Colleen’s primary functions will be to fast-track diagnostic tests for patients referred to the program. If a diagnosis of lung cancer is confirmed, Colleen will be the primary contact for the patient as he/she navigates the health system. The program will work to refer patients quickly to an oncologist, surgeon or other consultant specialist to develop their treatment plan.
The health team is multi-disciplinary – family physicians, respirologists, thoracic surgeons, diagnostic imaging, pathology, oncology and palliative care.
“Another major benefit of this program for patients will be our ability to take part in multidisciplinary case conferences with our medical colleagues in Hamilton to discuss a patient’s case as a group and determine the patient’s best course of treatment,” says Dr. Nolan.
The program is one of seven pilot programs across Ontario sponsored by Cancer Care Ontario and the Nursing Secretariat. Cancer Care Ontario is focused on reducing wait times for diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients, and different versions of this LDAP model have shown good results.
“Niagara Health System and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton have demonstrated tremendous leadership in developing an integrated, interprofessional care model for the diagnosis of lung treatment,” said Juanita Gledhill, Board Chair, Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network. “This collaboration will result in improved access to quality care for persons with lung cancer in the HNHB LHIN.”
Carol Potvin, Niagara Health Director of Oncology, noted that this new initiative is about giving patients support and compassion during a very difficult time: “Our goal is to give patients some peace of mind and help relieve their stress. This will be the place where they can get easily understood answers.”
Niagara’s cancer program has increased about 30 per cent in the last five years. A new prostate cancer clinic recently opened at the St. Catharines General Site and the chemotherapy treatment space is currently being expanded. In 2013, the Walker Family Cancer Centre will open at the new health complex in St. Catharines, bringing comprehensive cancer care, including radiation services, to Niagara for the first time.
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Caroline Bourque Wiley
Public Affairs Consultant
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