New JHCC president glad to be back in Hamilton
“It’s nice to be back,” says Dr. Ralph Meyer as he sits down for a chat in his office that overlooks Concession Street at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre.
The 59-year-old returned to Hamilton as president of the JHCC in August from Queen’s University and Kingston General Hospital and has been spending the last few months reacquainting himself to the Hamilton Health Sciences facility and speaking with many of its 2,550 employees.
He does not appear to be considering any big changes.
“You want to be careful making major changes in the first three to six months in which you come in,” said Meyer, who is also a regional vice president of Cancer Care Ontario. “The major aspect is listening to people.”
Meyer graduated from medical school at McMaster University in 1978 and worked at Hamilton Health Sciences and its predecessor organizations from 1988 to 2006.
Originally from Brampton and now living in Ancaster, Meyer is a highly respected hematologist and regarded as one of Canada’s leading experts in cancer clinical trials.
He said he will continue what he calls the “merging of the cultures” between the hospital and cancer centre noting the two facilities share a variety on-site specialists including cardiologists, urologists and lung specialists and nursing specialists.
Last year the JHCC saw more than 36,000 visits to its emergency department; there were more than 68,000 visits to one of the out-patient clinics and there were more than 260,000 cancer treatment visits.
Meyer noted the cancer centre is one of the leading sites in Canada for conducting clinical trials for cancer drugs, therapies and programs and he is looking to expand that work.
There are also a number of capital and equipment projects that he will be overseeing.
Next year the cancer centre will be getting a $750,000 robotic system that will prepare doses of chemotherapy drugs in a sterile and automated environment near the second floor chemotherapy suite at the cancer centre.
“That should allow us actually to treat a higher number of patients,” Meyer said.
The new $5 million CICB Breast Assessment Centre, currently under construction, is slated to open at the JHCC next summer.
“This will be a centre for women deemed to be at high risk for breast cancer,” Meyer said.
The cancer centre will also see the installation of two new radiation machines over the next 12 months and two more by 2016.
Cancer Care Ontario will cover the cost of the machines that run about $3.5 million per unit and HHS, likely through its foundation, will pay the approximately $300,000 it costs to renovate and prepare each bunker for a new machine.
The radiation program sees about 5,000 new patients each year.
Perhaps his biggest challenge relates to the aging population.
“We’re not unique in this,” said Meyer, who noted local healthcare providers need to work with the community to find ways to help a growing number of residents who require personal, non hospital care.
“Patients who can no longer manage at home but don’t necessarily need acute care hospital services,” Meyer said. “It has been very noticeable how that remains a major healthcare delivery issue; it is something I hope we’re able to take on.”