Northern Health is cutting its IV chemotherapy treatment from Haida Gwaii after struggling to find a consistent pharmacy technician. (Pixabay photo)

Northern Health is cutting its IV chemotherapy treatment from Haida Gwaii after struggling to find a consistent pharmacy technician. (Pixabay photo)

Without a technician, this type of cancer treatment is being cut from Haida Gwaii

Patients needing IV chemotherapy will have to travel to Prince Rupert or Terrace as of June 21

Without a highly-trained pharmacy technician on Haida Gwaii, the health authority is being forced to cut one of its cancer treatment services.

As of June 21, patients battling cancer will have to travel off island to receive IV chemotherapy treatment. Northern Health is losing its pharmacy technician, a specialist who mixes up chemotherapy agents, and puts it in the intravenous bags for delivery to the patients.

“Without that function nobody else can do it. There’s no pharmacist who can perform this function, no other person can do this. It’s a highly-trained position and so we are unable to continue as of June 21 because of losing that function,” said Dr. Jaco Fourie, Northern Health’s northwest medical director and medical lead for Northern Health Cancer Care.

This chemotherapy treatment has been available on Haida Gwaii for more than 1o years, Dr. Fourie said.

In the short-term, Northern Health has been trying to keep this service alive by bringing in pharmacy technicians from within the health authority’s jurisdiction, while looking for someone to fill the gap. But despite these attempts, the health authority has decided it has to cut this particular cancer service entirely.

“All other components of the treatment journey continues,” Dr. Fourie said.

Patients will still be able to see their own physician who has been delivering cancer care on the island, and it’s a very “robust service.” When it comes to intravenous infusion, that will have to be done at the nearest hospital offering the service, most likely Prince Rupert or Terrace.

In the past week, Northern Health calculated eight people will be affected by the service cut.

READ MORE: Shortage of chemo-trained nurses forces patients off island

The treatment can take between one and eight hours. People receiving the treatment in another community will have to stay overnight. Travel and accommodation expenses might be covered by the band for Indigenous people, but Dr. Fourie said for people who don’t have funding, it will depend on their personal finances.

Dr. Fourie’s biggest concern is that some patients may not want to travel for the treatment because they’ll be away from their supportive structures, their village and family, and so they may chose to dismiss the treatment or try another form of treatment that isn’t as effective.

“Secondly, of course, we are concerned about people that feel pain and discomfort, or nauseous, or psychologically distressed, having to travel now that adds to that burden,” Dr. Fourie said.

Mayor of Queen Charlotte Chris Olsen, said this will be a huge affect on the residents.

“I work at the high school and two of my colleagues use this so this is vitally important to our community,” Olsen said.

The mayor is considering looking at alternative methods to solve these types of problems and to find solutions with Northern Health.

“I’m hoping to look at things a little different, do a resident attraction strategy to get people aware that this is a beautiful place to live, because I don’t think a lot of people really realize just how wonderful the lifestyle is in the north,” Olsen said.

If the pharmacy technician position is filled, Dr. Fourie said they would have to ensure the service is sustainable for a number of months before they would communicate that the service has been reinstated.

READ MORE: Northern Health dealing with lack of 121 registered nurses


Haida Gwaii Observer
Newsroom 
Send email
Like the Haida Gwaii Observer on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

CancerNorthern Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tracy Owen-Best with her husband, Larry Best. Tracy runs both the Nechako Barbershop and Hair Essentials Salon in Kitimat. Diagnosed with cancer in March 2020, she’s kept a positive mindset with the help from a supportive family. (Photo supplied)
In Our Valley: Tracy Owen-Best

Barbershop owner and cancer fighter keeps it positive

The Quesnel RCMP Detachment is one of seven northern police buildings which can now connect directly to Prince George for daily bail hearings. (Observer File Photo)
Bail hearings going virtual in B.C.’s north

A court pilot project will see virtual courtroom cameras set up in seven RCMP detatchments

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The fence option chosen for the 461 Quatsino Boulevard development is the red lines that border the site plan. The fence will be roughly six feet high with the exception of the fence bordering Cranberry Street which will be eight feet high. (Boni Maddison Architects photo)
Fence to be erected between housing project and Kitimat homeowners

Residents of the Cranberry Street area are finally getting the fence they want

Rising demand for police to perform well-being checks and field calls for people struggling with domestic violence cases is driving the city to formulate a ‘situation table’ to connect vulnerable people with the services they need. (News Bulletin file photo)
Situation Table comes to Kitimat to support vulnerable people

Situation Tables identify and help vulnerable people in need.

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
80-million-year-old turtle find on B.C. river exciting fossil hunters

Remains of two-foot creature of undetermined species will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

Most Read