A new clinic at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre seeks to reduce wait times and improve care for patients with esophageal cancer, lung cancer and other thoracic conditions.
It will also prevent some patients from having to undergo invasive procedures while awaiting word of a cancer diagnosis, the hospital said.
The Wilf Taillieu Thoracic Surgery Clinic and Endoscopy Unit, named after the late construction-business owner and former longtime mayor of Headingley, was officially unveiled on Tuesday.
Mavis Taillieu, Wilf’s widow, played a key role in a drive for the new centre that raised $3.2 million in just 11 months. The facility opened in July.
Taillieu, the former MLA for Morris, said her husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer in 2015.
He died the following year.
Before the new clinic was built, patients with esophageal cancer, who require treatments so they can eat and drink, were regularly bumped because they competed for operating-room space with those with life-threatening conditions.
Many of these procedures will now be handled in the new clinic.
The scheduling of endoscopy procedures was difficult and sometimes nearly impossible, Taillieu said Tuesday.
"There was just too much demand in the system and for the equipment, and not enough space on the calendar," she said.
"When things got so bad that (Wilf) couldn’t even swallow water, we had to come into emergency. We couldn’t wait for an appointment."
Taillieu, who paused occasionally while speaking at the ceremony to keep her emotions in check, said seeing her husband in distress "was very stressful and heartbreaking."
"It’s a hideous disease," she said.
Ronan Segrave, HSC chief operating officer, said the new clinic and endoscopy unit will give patients peace of mind their appointments will be honoured and they won’t get bumped at the last minute.
He said the hospital will now be able to diagnose and begin treatments of some cancers earlier than before.
"Previously, in some cases, patients would start treatment without even getting a definitive lung-cancer diagnosis because actually getting that diagnosis took too long," Segrave told the gathering, which included Premier Brian Pallister and Health Minister Cameron Friesen.
"That meant some people had to have surgeries and radiation treatments and invasive procedures that turned out actually to be clinically unnecessary," Segrave added.
"But there was actually less risk to the patient of having the procedures than in not having them."
Now, Segrave said, the hospital can do the right testing and get the results it needs before determining the course of treatment.
He said the new clinic will relieve pressure on the hospital’s regular operating rooms, as well as on its emergency department.
Blaine Hallader, who had surgery on his right lung at the hospital this summer after a growth was determined to be cancerous, said Tuesday he was fortunate to be among the clinic’s early patients.
"Within six days (of being diagnosed with cancer), I was being operated on," Hallader said.
"I just feel so lucky that everything fell into place for me."
The cost of the equipment and the renovations for the new clinic was paid for entirely by donors to the Health Sciences Centre Foundation. The province will cover the clinic’s ongoing operating costs.
"Not only does (the clinic) address an urgent need here at... HSC, it represents the very best of what’s possible when donors, our foundation, the hospital and political leadership come together in the spirit of partnership, generosity and creativity," foundation president and CEO Jonathon Lyon said.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Updated on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at 10:50 PM CST: Adds photo