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Caring for kids with cancer part of our commitment to high quality care closer to home

Cameron Stefani is seven-years old. Today he is sitting in a reclining chair in the paediatric oncology clinic at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) playing Star Wars on his Playstation PSP®, while RN Phoebe Foley takes blood.


Since being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) four years ago, Cameron has spent a lot of time in our hospital.


Cameron and his family live in Barrie, and instead of travelling to Toronto in order to receive his needed chemotherapy, Cameron was able to receive a portion of his treatment at OSMH meaning the family only had to travel half an hour from home.


“It was very beneficial to have the clinic here in Orillia,” says Kim Goudis, Cameron’s mother. “A lot of times during treatment Cameron would have to come four times per week. It was handy to only be 20 to 25 minutes away. And in the case of an emergency we were able to come directly to the treatment team.”


Now that Cameron is in remission, he will continue to visit the clinic once a month for regular check-ups and blood tests.


In September, OSMH celebrated Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and the 14th anniversary of the paediatric oncology clinic. It was in 1996 that OSMH partnered with the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) to allow for cancer care to be delivered closer to home whenever possible. Over a decade later OSMH remains the only hospital between the Greater Toronto Area and Sudbury providing chemotherapy and other needed cancer care to children.


For Jeana Johnson, a vivacious six-year-old who was diagnosed with ALL two years ago, OSMH and the team in the paediatric oncology clinic have become part of her family. A family she visits every two weeks for bloodwork and every four weeks for chemotherapy.


“The care we received has been great and we love it here,” says Melanie Scribner, Jeana’s mother. “The girls get hugs every time we come in, it feels like we are part of the family.”


While Jeana and Cameron both began their initial chemotherapy treatment at SickKids, they then had the option of receiving their required follow-up care at OSMH.


“Previously all care was done in tertiary centres like Toronto; however, the POGO program introduced a new way of caring for children with cancer, and that was to develop the skills and expertise within their own communities so they could receive care closer to home whenever possible,” explains Dr. Alan Hudak, one of the five paediatricians in the regional paediatric program and medical director of the paediatric oncology clinic at OSMH.


The clinic at OSMH is also a smaller centre, which means more personal, one-on-one care is provided for the patient during services such as central line care, blood collection and transfusions, diagnostic tests, chemotherapy, check-ups and overnight stays if needed.


Reducing stress on the family and patient is also one of the beneficial parts of the OSMH-based clinic.


“Our goal is to have our patients and families in and out in one hour: assessment, blood work and treatment,” explains Dr. Hudak, “this allows our patients and their families to get home quickly and back to their lives.”


For Scribner, the proximity to home was the most important part as she also has two-year-old Holly at home.


“Jeana has school today, and while she will be a little bit late because we had to come in and get blood work drawn, it’s much easier than having to go to Toronto,” Scribner explains. “If we went to the city we would have to take the entire day off, I would have to pay for daycare for Holly or get someone to pick her up. The clinic being close is such a benefit for us.”


That is something that Dr. Hudak likes to hear.


“We have developed the skills and expertise here at OSMH to ensure that any child that visits our clinic has access to a quality of care that is equal to that of a tertiary centre like SickKids,” says Dr. Hudak. “I think our reputation has been built on that regard.”


The clinic staff, made up of Dr. Hudak and Dr. Rob Meeder, an associate paediatrician with the regional program, as well as a designated paediatric oncology nurse, also remain in close contact with SickKids in order to provide seamless care to the patients.


“We have established great cross communication between nursing and physician teams, and if we have any questions they are very good to work with,” explains Hudak. “We have been able to evolve this program together and we certainly work together.”


And evolve they have, growing from just a handful of patient visits in 1996 to over 361 patient visits in 2010.


For more information on how you can support the Paediatric Oncology Clinic at OSMH, please contact the OSMH Foundation at (705) 325-6464.

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