BC Cancer – Kelowna, known as the Sindi Ahliwalia Hawkins Centre, welcomed patients for the first time on April 3, 1998. The fourth of six regional centres at BC Cancer, Kelowna centre is a powerhouse of innovation and a pillar of patient care; boasting several "firsts" for BC Cancer, B.C., and Canada.
Picture of staff at BC Cancer - Kelowna, then called the Cancer Centre for the Southern Interior, in 1998
More than 500 staff and physicians at BC Cancer – Kelowna provide care closer to home for people living in the Boundary, Cariboo, Kootenay, Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson regions. The centre provides a spectrum of cancer care from assessment and diagnostics, to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and supportive care. In partnership with Interior Health, BC Cancer – Kelowna medical oncologists also support 10 community oncology sites to ensure people living throughout the region have access to expert oncology care.
Recognizing the importance of including the patient voice in planning and managing centre operations, Kelowna was the first centre to include a patient advisor to represent and advise on patients' interests as part of the centre's leadership team.
- The only centre to offer interstitial brachytherapy for gynecological cancers and temporary high dose rate brachytherapy (HDR BT) for breast and prostate cancer
- B.C.'s only Research Chair in Brachytherapy
- The first Canadian site to use adaptive radiation therapy to treat patients
- Home to one of BC Cancer's four PET/CT scanners – the only publicly-funded scanner in the Interior
- One of the first participants in the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network's Canadian Remote Access Framework for Clinical Trials (CRAFT) to bring clinical trials close to home for patients in Trail, Terrace and surrounding areas
- A hub of innovation through research and clinical trials designed to improve care for patients across the province.
- An early adopter of team-based care, a model of care that puts the patient at the heart of the health care team
The last few years has brought significant upgrades to the facility, allowing for improved patient care. The PET/CT scanner, which opened in August 2020 has now scanned more than 5000 patients who would have otherwise had to travel to Vancouver.
In 2022, the centre replaced 3 linear accelerators (linacs), the machines that deliver radiation therapy to patients. One of the new units, the Ethos adaptive radiation unit, uses artificial intelligence to customize treatments by adapting to daily changes in the shape and position of cancer tumours; a first for patient care in Canada. The adaptive unit allows clinicians to better target treatments and spare the healthy tissue from the side effects of radiation. The new device also streamlines and automates many routine tasks allowing for a new treatment plan to be generated each day in as little as 15 minutes.
This year the centre will be upgrading their two CT scanners and a linac unit with another upgraded linac expected next year.
Team-based care puts the patient at the heart of a dedicated, multidisciplinary health care team, improving continuity of care, experience and outcomes. A BC Cancer pioneer in the implementation of team-based care, BC Cancer – Kelowna has eight out of it's 14 teams now up and running.
This collaborative model of care will also boost the experience and satisfaction of staff and physicians by enabling them to work to the full scope of their practice.
Team-based care also has the potential to improve the efficiency of care delivery and help achieve equity in access, experiences and outcomes for populations including First Nations, Métis, and those who are part of a racialized community.
For patients who identify as Indigenous, two new Indigenous Patient Navigator roles have been added to deliver supportive health care services. The new roles will ensure Indigenous patients receive supportive care that is trauma informed and culturally safe.
Looking towards the future, it is anticipated that by 2027, one in three new cancer diagnoses in the province will come from people living in the Interior Health area. To help meet increasing demand, BC Cancer – Kelowna is developing a new systemic therapy suite which will add 8 new chemotherapy chairs. This increase will allow up to 73 patients to receive chemotherapy each day.
Additional plans are in development to improve Operating Room space and create a new supportive care centre near the Kelowna Centre. The new supportive care centre will enhance patient support by providing evidence-based care in a more therapeutic setting. Based on evidence, up to 45 per cent of patients can experience emotional distress requiring some form of professional support. Returning to the same centre where they received cancer treatment can bring back memories and difficult emotions related to challenging treatments and being sick. The new supportive care centre provides the opportunity to offer care that is better tailored to each patient.
All of this work is in addition to the recently announced a 10-year provincial cancer action plan. This plan includes short-term priorities to better prevent, detect, and treat cancers along with actionable steps to deliver improved care for people now while preparing for the growing needs of the future including plans to extend cancer care into Kamloops. An initial investment of $441 million will help expand cancer care teams and service hours, increase Indigenous patient support positions, support patients who need travel from rural communities for care, and invest in cancer research.
The recent changes and future growth in cancer care could not be accomplished without teams being willing to adapt and innovate in order to deliver cutting-edge cancer care. The exceptional person-centered care patients receive is thanks to the collaborative and compassionate teams at BC Cancer – Kelowna. Staff and physicians continue to go above and beyond to deliver world-class care to patients, families and caregivers. Thank you!
If you would like to thank a care provider at BC Cancer – Kelowna, please visit: bccancer.bc.ca/thanks