The High River Community Cancer Centre opened in the High River Hospital as a joint project of the Headwaters Health Authority and the Alberta Cancer Board in July 1998. The Centre was located in the Hospital because of the need for access to the pharmacy, lab and the emergency rooms. Dr. Adam Vyse and Dr. Chris Powell trained to be the onsite physicians, and oncology nurse positions were funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Since the inception of the Centre, the High River District Health Care Foundation has invested over $36,000 in equipment and furnishings, including a specialized fume hood so that chemotherapy drugs can be prepared in the hospital . We have been able to do so because of the tremendous support received from the community and, most notably, through the generosity of the Rotary Club of High River.
The Centre Today:
In some ways, the High River Community Cancer Centre has changed very little since it opened, but in others it has changed dramatically.
The Centre continues to operate in the Hospital as a satellite to the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary. A patient’s initial visit is always to Tom Baker, where the oncology team assesses if they can receive their treatments in High River. All radiation treatments are, however, performed at the Tom Baker.
Doctors Powell and Vyse are still with the Centre, and there is now a staff of four nurses and a nurse navigator. The space for the Centre has changed very little but has become a much busier place. The number of procedures grew from 436 in 2010-2011, to 988 to in 2011-2012. In 2012, patient visits per month increased from 60 to 120. The most common forms of cancer treated are colon and bowel, cancers of the blood and breast cancer. On average, there are equal numbers of male and female patients.
Over the years, the Centre has developed a reputation for wonderful “small town” care. Time and time again, we hear that the friendships made at the Cancer Centre are like having a second family. There is a real sense of community at the Centre: Volunteers deliver lunches to the patients and make coffee and tea; A former patient, now known as the “cookie lady”, delivers homemade cookies every Monday; Hospital Lab staff attend to the patients in the Centre to carry out testing instead of the patients having to go to the lab. The facility, itself, is showing the signs of age and the demand for treatment has increased dramatically but in spite of this, the professionalism, care and compassion of the staff has remained constant.