When extreme weather, flooding and mudslides hit our province, our staff across BC Cancer went through great lengths to support patients and families who were severely impacted.
Today we are profiling the extraordinary efforts of Gerald Gelowitz, Andrea Acosta, Dal Sandhu, Christine Limpright, and Pardeep Virk who went beyond their call of duty to ensure that our patients received timely and vital care.
BC Cancer’s mission is to reduce the burden of cancer in British Columbia. This was personified by Gerald Gelowitz, manager of clinical service, and his team at BC Cancer – Abbotsford last month. The centre had a common goal to reduce the impact the floods and road closures on patient care, especially those that require urgent treatments like radiation therapy.
Gerald and his staff ensured that the centre continued to provide as many radiation therapy and systematic treatments as possible. This meant working longer days in Radiation and Systemic Therapy due to delays in patient arrivals, and extra time spent to help arrange transport and lodgings for those in need.
“We reached out to our patients to understand their needs and make arrangements so that they can continue with their treatment despite what was happening around us,” says Gerald. “Together we developed a plan on how we could support them in receiving their treatments. For one patient in particular, we were able to offer weekend treatment so that he could finish and return home right away. He said that was the best news he had gotten all year.”
Many patients were very appreciative of these efforts and felt well taken care of.
“Another patient commented on how us reaching out to him and following up really showed how much BC Cancer really cares for their patients and their well-being,” says Gerald.
BC Cancer – Abbotsford, normally closed on weekends, stayed open that Saturday and Sunday, with committed staff ready to serve patients that had missed treatments during the week due to the impact of the flooding.
“Our team did a fantastic job of coming together, developing an action plan, communicating this plan, and carrying it out,” Gerald added. “We often had to pivot to plan B and C, ready for any curve balls the flood situation throws at us. It was a stressful time but these types of interactions with patients made it easy to carry on.”
On Nov. 17, when crisis struck our province, Andrea Acosta, regional cancer care program coordinator at BC Cancer - Vancouver, received a call from Kevin Hare, senior executive director, operations, BC Cancer. Andrea was asked to support the emergency operations centre (EOC) in Abbotsford, helping with the floods and road closure response.
Andrea was flattered to receive the call of duty and agreed immediately, commuting daily from Vancouver to Abbotsford for the next seven days to support BC Cancer – Abbotsford. She put her much needed skillset to use, helping coordinate transportation and accommodations for patients receiving urgent care from all the affected communities.
In addition to supporting the Abbotsford centre, Andrea also helped to ensure staff from affected areas were able to safely make it to work.
“It was such an honour to be asked to be a part of the Abbotsford team and being able to help out and work with Ruby. She is an amazing leader!” says Andrea. “The Abbotsford staff and leadership team were all incredible, coming together and putting their patients first. It was an honour to work alongside this mighty team.”
When the unprecedented flooding first hit the Fraser Valley last month, Dal Sandhu, manager for centre services at BC Cancer – Abbotsford had a critical role, coordinating air transport for stranded patients affected by the road closures.
As the road closures continued and commute times by ground lengthened (round trips by car could take anywhere from 3 to 6+ hours), more air transport options were required for patients who had mobility or pain management issues. Dal’s role continued to evolve with the situation, leading the way for travel arrangements for critical treatment staff and patient accommodations.
No matter how demanding her job was, Dal always found time to check in with patients to see how they were doing and how they could be supported.
“It was very rewarding connecting with patients who felt a bit hopeless about not being able to make it to their appointment, and being able to present to them a viable solution was great,” says Dal. “They felt well cared for and that is what’s most important to me.”
So far Dal and her team have helped nine patients and five staff members affected by the floods with air travel. In addition, with assistance from other BC Cancer team members, Dal was able to secure accommodations for 13 patients and 15 staff members affected by the flood situation.
Looking back at the flood response, Christine Limpright, administrative assistant, BC Cancer – Abbotsford, is proud of the role she played to help ease the burden the flooding situation had on patients and staff.
Like many of her peers, she went above and beyond her regular duties to take on various roles and tasks to help with the flood response. This included arranging ground transport for patients, working with continually changing road conditions and updates. Christine also played a key role in helping coordinate hotel bookings for critical staff, organized the food voucher system so that patients had opportunity for a meal while onsite as some were not able to get food until after their treatment (some commutes took hours due to road closures).
“Our entire team worked together, tirelessly, to ensure that our patients were able to receive their much-needed care, and our staff felt supported and safe. It was an incredibly stressful time for anyone travelling from Chilliwack, Hope and beyond. I was so glad to help in any way that I could to help ease this burden, even if only a little,” says Christine. “The teamwork was fantastic, from our administration team to our frontline staff providing care. It really was a good reminder of what we are all here for, to provide the best patient care to the people of the Fraser Valley.”
When Pardeep Virk, ACU unit clerk, BC Cancer – Victoria, first heard the call to action for staff to help out at BC Cancer – Abbotsford to assist with the flood response, she immediately put her name forward for consideration.
Fortunately for all involved, Pardeep was selected to help out in Abbotsford and she travelled from Victoria to do so.
Upon her arrival in Abbotsford, Pardeep immediately helped with streamlining the flood response efforts with her colleagues at BC Cancer – Abbotsford, helping ensure critical patient appointments continued without interruption, dispute the trying circumstances.
“When I first heard about how dire it was in the flood ravaged areas, my heart sank. I wanted to be selected, I wanted to serve to help the community of Abbotsford and I am so grateful I was given the opportunity to do so and I will do it again in a heartbeat,” says Pardeep.
These are just some of the stories showcasing the extraordinary efforts of our staff to support those in need. Thank you to all who contributed to help our patients, families and communities. Your continual dedication inspires us!