Tom Marshall. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
Radiation therapy in the future western regional hospital has now by given the green light by the provincial government.
Premier Tom Marshall gave his word on the addition to Western Health Friday, following the West Coast Health Care Action Committee’s meeting the night prior in Corner Brook.
“Yes, we are going to do it,” Marshall said Friday. “We are going to put radiation here.”
This week, the Liberals and Leader Dwight Ball committed to the radiation unit — coinciding with their prior commitment to bringing a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner to the facility — if elected.
Frank Coleman, the future leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and premier of the province, also made that commitment at Thursday’s meeting.
Marshall had been offering his support to the lobbying efforts, but would not commit to doing so until he fully researched it. There was $500,000 allotted in Budget 2014 for the study of safe radiation service delivery in western Newfoundland.
The only question left is whether there will be one radiation machine or two, the premier said. He reiterated that the province had been following the national model whereby chemotherapy and surgeries for cancer treatment could be done regionally, but radiation was situated in the main population centre.
Nationally, each radiation unit has two machines, said Marshall, with the exception of two in Ontario — Sault. Ste. Marie and Peterborough. He said those sites, and their use of one radiation machine, are still being evaluated.
Marshall said the numbers he has been provided support one machine for western Newfoundland. While he has been told by health care professionals that a therapy program can operate with one machine, those sources come from programs where there are two machines.
Marshall also said his concern about attracting the necessary health care professionals for the unit has been negated.
Coleman also said Thursday that the hospital has to be built right away. Marshall said no one has been trying to do that more than him, but the process is a slow one.
“I would say I have driven people crazy trying to find ways that we can speed it up,” Marshall said.
While he has been frustrated with the time the functional process has taken, he said the team responsible is satisfied that it is being done correctly and bringing the services that are needed for the region.
He said there will be some site work done this summer, including electrical, water and sewer. The following year, the construction on two of the hospital buildings will begin, with building of the main facility to begin in 2016.
He laughed when asked just how long it will take, but did not give a concrete timeline.
“Some people have been throwing around eight years,” he said. “I really don’t think it will take that long.”