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Long-awaited cancer centre will be treating patients in four years, Dix pledges

"The residents of Kamloops, some of whom are here right now, have wanted this for a long time," said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix. "It is coming."
The cancer centre has been a bone of contention for years.

The province’s health minister says a long-awaited cancer care centre for Kamloops will be fully functioning in four years, with a business plan for the facility currently under development.

Adrian Dix was in Kamloops on Thursday, announcing the approval of a new cancer centre to be built on a plot currently home to a gravel parking lot just west of Royal Inland Hospital.

“We'll have the business plan ready at the end of 2023. And then we proceed then to doing what we always do with capital projects,” Dix said, adding this will include the project going to tender.

“Then, we will build the centre.”

Dix said a concept plan for the cancer centre has been approved, which means it’s in the capital budget of the provincial government. The cost of the project is estimated to be between $200 million and $300 million.

“In the history of this government and previous governments of different political stripes, no project that's approved at concept plan stage has not gone through,” he said. “Every one has gone forward, this one is going forward.”

Some in the community might be skeptical. The cancer centre has been promised in the past, most recently in 2020 when a campaigning John Horgan committed to building the facility within four years if elected.

As premier, Horgan later said the centre was in his government’s 10-year plan.

The project announced Thursday is slated to include three radiation treatment linear accelerators, radiation therapy planning, a CT simulator, an MRI scanner and an outpatient care unit.

A 470-stall parkade will also be constructed on the site, which will help alleviate the hospital’s parking crunch.

According to the health minister, the forthcoming business plan will include more details about the project. Dix said he expects the centre will be receiving its first patients in 2027.

Dr. Kim Chi, a medical oncologist with BC Cancer, said the new cancer centre will add to the care that’s already offered at Royal Inland Hospital.

“Not only will the new cancer centre provide new radiation treatment options, we'll also build up the capacity we need to keep up with the increasing demand for cancer care that is expected in the coming years,” Chi said.

“During its first year of operations, we anticipate the new Kamloops cancer centre will provide 6,600 patient radiation consults and follow up appointments and 14,000 treatment visits per year.”

After the health minister’s announcement, Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar said he had yet to see the cancer centre project in the budget.

“When the minister has said repeatedly it's in the budget, it is not in the projects over $15 million dollar list like it's supposed to be,” Milobar said, adding the project may have been approved by cabinet in the last day or two.

“There's no diagrams, there's no drawings, there's no idea of scale or scope. Again, four years behind — which means 60,000 treatments that could have happened for people in Kamloops and area over that four year period of delay are still going to have to happen in Kelowna.”

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson, who was also present at Thursday’s announcement, said he felt it was important to stay positive.

“You hear things over and over. And, yeah, I mean years ago, you hear kind of the same thing. But I think we're getting closer, and I just like to try to stay positive and work together on things,” Hamer-Jackson said.

Kamloops Coun. Mike O’Reilly, who chairs the Thompson Regional Hospital District board, acknowledged many Kamloops residents are skeptical, having heard several announcements related to the promised cancer centre over the past years.

He noted the regional hospital district had approved funding four years ago for a 350-stall parkade, which wasn’t taken up by the province at that time.

“We heard today there’s 475 [parking spots] that will be part of this project. So this has been identified for a long time. But it's something moving in the right direction,” he said.

O’Reilly said he believes that the centre centre will help with the attraction of doctors and nurses to the area, and emphasized the importance of working together to ensure the centre is built for the community.

“Our job is to make sure that we are at the forefront. We need to keep pushing until there's a shovel in the ground in this parking lot that we stand in today. We cannot stop,” he said.