A new facility within Regina's General Hospital (RGH) is offering young cancer patients from the city and southern Saskatchewan the chance to get treatment close to home.
On Tuesday, representatives of the provincial health ministry, the Hospitals of Regina Foundation and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) officially opened the Children's Cancer Clinic.
Every year around 15 to 20 children and teenagers from Regina and the southern part of the province are diagnosed with cancer. About 100 are being treated or monitored, or getting follow-up care, according to a media release from the Hospitals of Regina Foundation.
"It's emotional," said Saskatchewan's Health Minister Paul Merriman on Tuesday.
"When it's about kids, it hits close to home. Everybody can relate to this, whether they have kids of their own or their friends or siblings have kids."
The SHA approached the Hospitals of Regina Foundation in 2021, requesting funding for the development of a new pediatric oncology outpatient clinic at RGH, according to the foundation's president and CEO Dino Sophocleous.
He said his organization agreed to fully fund the Children's Cancer Clinic and committed to more than $1 million "to ensure that children from Regina and southern Saskatchewan and their families have a dedicated space in which to get the specialized cancer care they need."
Among other features, the facility has new equipment for treatment and big examination rooms to fit not only the patient and health professionals, but also the child's family.
"In addition to funding the creation of the Children's Cancer Clinic, we have been asked to fund a new pharmacy cleanroom at the additional cost of over $1 million where chemotherapy treatments will be specially designed for patients and produced in house," said Sophocleous.
"We will continue to support this clinic in the future, as inevitably its technology becomes obsolete and needs to be replaced."
The new unit was developed using a provincial model of consolidated inpatient and outpatient children's oncology services, said Derek Miller, interim chief operating officer for the SHA.
"This model has been implemented both to ensure a consistent approach to patient assessment and care planning, as well as to reduce travel time and time away from home for children and families," said Miller.
"This new children's day medicine and oncology unit will allow our medical teams to deliver the best care possible in a dedicated children's space."
The provincial government initially earmarked $300,000 in its 2019-20 budget to help the implementation of the new model, followed by additional funding of over $2.5 million over three years, according to Merriman.
"We have to continue working with the clinicians to see if there are any gaps in the system, what we can identify, what we can incorporate into our budgetary process," said Merriman.