Terrace doc takes cancer services lead
A Terrace doctor has been chosen as the Northern Health Authority's lead cancer services doctor.
Dr. Jaco Fourie's appointment as the lead for oncology services is effective June 1.
The appointment means Fourie will be devoting all his time to cancer patients in the north.
“What it means for the people in Terrace and for our immediate region is first of all, the programs will definitely benefit,” he said, saying that he'll be more available and accessible to cancer patients.
Previously working as a general practitioner oncologist, Fourie could only devote a day and a half a week to cancer patients. He's been slowly phasing out his general patient list and moving them to other doctors in town to allow his schedule to be freed up for full time work in oncology.
“My accessibility to patients has immediately changed, and it also means our flexibility to deliver chemotherapy and palliative care services has now expanded from a day and a half to five days a week,” he said.
This will allow Fourie to see more patients, develop programs, and be available for more same-day consultations at the hospital. He said that the staff have been underutilized to some extent because of his limited availability, and the move means they'll be able to do more with the same budgets and structures.
“Now they (the patients) can actually access us right at the oncology clinic daily,” he said.
Fourie became the lead clinical oncology services for the northwest in 2008, assisting five cancer clinics from Terrace to Atlin.
In this role, he designed programs and assisted fellow general practitioner oncologists, and worked to find ways to shorten diagnostic timelines.
“We've made great strides here in Terrace,” he said in terms of shortening diagnostic timelines, “and they want us to export that knowledge skillset to the rest of the Northern Health. So I'll be responsible for that in Northern Health, to develop programs like that and oversee programs like that.”
Fourie will be overseeing 10 clinics, with his area covering the province north of Quesnel.
Fourie said no other health authorities in the province have a specific position to support oncology clinics like this.
“The reason they have it here is because of the geographical realities of the north,” he said. “We've got these 10 clinics, they're far away from each other with very few resources; they need help, they need assistance, they need connectivity...to technology, to the BC Cancer agency, and to each other. I'm there to help this geographically diverse situation. ”
Fourie said Northern Health is at the forefront in timeline development compared to other health authorities.
“We have to be compressing all of these diagnostic efforts because there are other delays that are caused by geography,” he said.
Timelines are important for survival, and Fourie wants to develop programs unique to the north to catch patients the moment they show signs of progression of disease and deal with it quickly.
Some items he wants to improve are diagnostic timelines for cancers, surveillance in known cancer diagnoses, and screening participation rates in remote communities.
Screening participation rates are low, he said; the participation rates for breast cancer screening in north/northwest is 39 per cent compared to good screening program capture rate of over 70 per cent. So he wants to figure out why people don't participate in these programs, and find a way to encourage them to use these health services.
These projects will equate into real life saved, better outcomes, better cancer care and better survival overall, he said.
“The problem is that we see too many tragedies. We see just too many people falling through the cracks,” he said. “Not through medical mismanagement, but because of the system not capturing people. The system is fragmented. The system should be more robust. That is my goal, is to create a system in the north that will capture these people without fail, almost.”
Another aspect of his job will be liaising with with cancer societies and representing northern health in forums that involve community oncology.
His first official clinic day will be June 6.