MEDICINE HAT, AB -- Medicine Hat’s cancer centre will soon be without an oncologist.
Dr. Soundouss Raissouni will be leaving the Margery E. Yuill Cancer Centre at the end of June.
Dr. Raissouni recently returned from maternity leave after being gone for a year beginning in November 2018.
According to Dr. Dean Reuther, medical director for community oncology with Alberta Health Services, the centre will operate similar to how it did when Dr. Raissouni was gone.
“Visiting doctors and referring patients to Calgary or Lethbridge and then trying to facilitate their treatment in Medicine Hat,” says Dr. Reuther. “Once they have had their consultations done elsewhere.”
The centre plans on bringing in a temporary medical oncologist three days a week, as well as one that comes in once a week.
“We have a visiting medical oncologist from Calgary who comes once a week and will continue to do so even after Dr. Raissouni has left,” says Dr. Reuther.
There's also general practitioner oncologists, nurse practitioners and hematologists that work at the site.
However, being temporarily without an oncologist won’t come without challenges.
“It does have an impact on our ability some services locally,” says Dr. Reuther. “Obviously people would rather not have to drive elsewhere to see a physician when they need a consult for a cancer program but we do the best we can under those circumstances.”
He says they’re currently recruiting for the positions, but it’s a challenging market.
“We are recruiting so the position is advertised and we’ve had some expressions of interest but it is a challenge recruiting oncologists all across the country right now,” he says.
It can be additionally challenging for smaller cities.
“I think it’s fair to say that it’s always more challenging to recruit into smaller regional type centres than to the large sites,” says Dr. Reuther. “I don’t think Medicine Hat would be viewed differently than Red Deer, Lethbridge or Grande Prairie where we have similar positions but it is more of a challenge to recruit into those smaller programs than into the large sites for sure.”
One specific challenge to Medicine Hat is the lack of access to radiation services.
“One of the challenges in Medicine Hat is that there’s no radiation therapy capacity there,” says Dr. Reuther. “That service is provided in Lethbridge and that can make it a more challenging environment to recruit medical oncologist into as well because we work very closely with our radiation oncology colleagues.
It’s unknown how long the position will be vacant, but Reuther says good things are coming for Regional cancer centres.
“We are working on plans to expand the services that can be offered in our regional centres so it’s going to be a growth area for us within cancer care and that will help us to provide more and more services to more patients closer or in their home environments, which is our goal,” he says.
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