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Radiation wait times will be guaranteed in Nova Scotia

February 28, 2010, will mark a milestone in health care in Canada. That’s when the federal Patient Wait Times Guarantee program will be in effect in Nova Scotia.

The program is designed to reduce wait times across the country and ensure Canadians are receiving optimal care. It’s a goal the Nova Scotia government is fully committed to attaining.  “Nova Scotia was the first province to sign the Wait Time Guarantee with the federal government in March 2007,” says Health Minister Maureen MacDonald. “We are committed to ensuring Nova Scotians have access to health care where they need it and when they need it.”

The national initiative was unveiled in the 2007 federal budget. Of the $612 million allocated for the Patient Wait Times Guarantee Trust, $24.2 million is earmarked for Nova Scotia. Six key areas were identified under the program: cancer care, hip and knee replacement, cardiac care, diagnostic imaging, cataract surgeries and primary care. Nova Scotia selected radiation therapy for patients with cancer.

“In particular,” notes Nancy MacLeod, the Department’s Chief Executive, Wait Time Improvement, “the Department of Health is enhancing the use of technology and improving processes to reduce wait times for radiation therapy.”

radiation bunkerConstruction of a new radiation therapy bunker, for example, has begun in Sydney at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre. The new bunker will house a new linear accelerator that will boost the centre's capacity to treat cancer patients who need radiation therapy. As well, CT simulators, one of the latest advances in the field of radiation oncology, have been purchased for the province’s two cancer centres. This is the most accurate process available to localize, define, and reconstruct a tumor in three dimensions.

“We’re improving our capacity to provide the most advanced and appropriate radiation treatment,” explains Nancy.

Under the Patient Wait Times Guarantee, Nova Scotians will receive radiation therapy within eight weeks of their ready-to-treat date.  “If this is not possible,” said Minister MacDonald, “the guarantee provides for patients to receive treatment elsewhere. It’s all about providing the best patient care.”

The success of the program in Nova Scotia to date is the result of efforts across the health system, she adds.  “This has been a collaborative approach between Cancer Care Nova Scotia, the Department of Health, the Cape Breton Cancer Centre, the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre and Health Canada.  All of the cancer care stakeholders are fully engaged.”

The result will be reduced wait times and improved patient care for Nova Scotians today – and tomorrow.  As Nancy says, “We are really planning today for the future.”

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