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Life back to normal at JHCC

Flood damage cost still being tallied ay cancer centre and St. Joes

 By Mark Newman, News Staff 

While there have been a few adjustments, the chemotherapy suite at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre is back to treating about 100 patients per day following last week’s cold weather-related flood.

“We are back to capacity,” said JHCC president Dr. Ralph Meyer.

A pipe ruptured in the third floor administrative area of the cancer centre on Concession Street around 5 p.m. on Jan. 7 resulting in a large gush of water that went through the ceilings and down the stairwells affecting the chemotherapy suite on the second floor, the patient assessment area on the first floor and the ground floor radiation unit.

The flood forced the closing of the cancer centre the next day and services began to return on Jan. 9

“We have assurances the patient care areas are entirely safe,” said Meyer, who noted all the affected areas have been thoroughly tested for mold and other debris.

While the flood did not affect any machinery, Meyer said they are still adding up the cost of structural damage left behind by the water, particularly in the chemo suite which has been reduced from 39 chairs or treatment areas to 30.

“We’re functioning on about three-quarters of the space,” said Meyer, who also noted the pharmacy which was located next to the suite has been moved to a fourth floor research area.

The move has resulted in treatment delays for some chemotherapy patients.

Meyer said repairs to the suite, the cost of which are still being tallied, will be tied to the planned renovation of the unit that will see the installation of a $750,000 robotic system later this year that will be used to mix the toxic chemotherapy drugs.

He noted they have also adjusted scheduling for some chemotherapy patients.

Previously patients would arrive at the centre, have blood work done to determine the mix of drugs they require and see a doctor before having the chemotherapy administered.

All of which can take three or four hours.

Since the flood many patients are now seeing their doctor and getting blood work done on one day and going straight to chemotherapy the next.

While it means an additional visit for the patient, it also enables the cancer centre to treat more people and reduce wait times, Meyer said.

The chemotherapy suite runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and Meyer said those hours will be extended if needed but there are no immediate plans to do so.

Radiation therapy hours at the cancer centre were hiked from eight to 12 hours at the beginning of the year.

Meyer noted the increase was not due to the flood; rather it was because two of their 11 radiation machines have been taken out of commission due to their age and the bunkers that house those machines need to be renovated prior to the installation of new machines later this year.

The longer hours will enable the unit to provide as many as 400 treatments per day and are expected to continue for at least another six months or perhaps longer as the cancer centre is looking to replace two more machines over the next two years.

Meyer said they have adjusted the shift schedule at the unit in order to maintain existing staff costs.

Meanwhile, the closure of 12 operating rooms and emergency department due to a cold weather related-flood at St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton’s Charlton Avenue campus last week resulted in a 30 percent increase in visits to the emergency department at the JHCC.

Meyer noted the emergency department at the Mountain hospital normally sees 100-110 visits per day and last week that number jumped to as many as 140 visits including an additional 20 visits by ambulances.

Dozens of elective surgeries were also cancelled last week to make room for emergency or other operations that would have normally been done at St. Joes.

In some cases, Meyer noted patients from St. Joes had surgery performed at the JHCC and were then sent back to theCharlton Avenuehospital to recover.

While some day surgeries are still being cancelled, most other out-patient services were back to normal at the JHCC this week.

Over at St. Joes repair work continues after a pipe burst on the third floor of the surgical tower on Jan. 8.

Four operating rooms have been re-opened and the hospital is open for emergency surgery.

Hospital officials are hoping to get two more ORs back in service by the end of this week although it’s not known when all 12 operating rooms will be re-opened.

While the Charlton Avenue emergency department is back to 24-7 service, about 60 percent of the department remains blocked off for repairs and a medical surgical assessment unit has opened on the second floor for emergency patients who require further assessment or need to be admitted.

The emergnecy department is once again accepting ambulance traffic, walk-in patients, adult emergency psychiatry patients and some hip fracture and obstetrical emergencies.

All out-patient and diagnostic imaging services are running although there is limited capcacity for ultrasound due to the flood.

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