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February 9, 2006

Dahlia Reich, Communication Consultant,
St. Joseph's Health Care, London
Parkwood Hospital
(519) 685-4292
ext. 44034

Maureen Solecki,
Vice President,
Strategic Planning, Community Relations and Support Services
Grey Bruce Health Services
(519) 376-2121
ext. 2806

Toni Adey,
Community Relations
Bluewater Health,
(519) 464-4452

Brenda Straus, Administrative Assistant, Clinical Programs,
Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance,
(519) 272-8210
ext. 2423

New region-wide partnership targets cancer care

A landmark collaboration of health care providers in Southwestern Ontario is being launched today that will impact all aspects of cancer care in every corner of the region.

In an effort to improve access to and quality of cancer care, hospitals and health care organizations throughout Southwestern Ontario are forming a unique partnership called the Southwest Regional Cancer Services Alliance (RCSA).

For the first time in the region, there will be an accountability agreement among organizations laying out roles, responsibilities and a clearly defined process through which system-wide improvements will be made in the delivery of cancer services.

This is a ground-breaking collaboration coming at a critical time. Over the next 10 years, growth of the aging population is expected to result in a higher cancer incidence and mortality rates in Southwestern Ontario compared to Ontario's averages overall.
The purpose of the Southwest RCSA is to plan and coordinate services across programs and providers. An important feature will be its decision-making role over cancer care funding in the region. The RCSA will review, approve and recommend allocation of new funding from Cancer Care Ontario for Southwestern Ontario.

"The Southwest RCSA is committed to addressing gaps and inconsistencies in cancer care services across the region," says Michael Sherar, chair of the Southwest RCSA's executive committee, vice president, London Regional Cancer Program, and vice president, Regional Cancer Services, London, Cancer Care Ontario. "The goal is to provide the highest quality of care and support to those who need it, when they need it, as close to home as possible."

In particular, the RCSA will be an important vehicle to monitor and address waiting times for cancer treatment.

Today marks the launch of the Southwest RCSA through a ceremonial signing of the accountability agreement by the region's hospitals, hospital networks, public health units, community care access centres, the London Regional Cancer Program, and the Canadian Cancer Society. The spectrum of care represented by these organizations includes prevention, screening, diagnosis, systemic treatment, radiation treatment, cancer surgery, supportive care, and palliative care.

"The agreement establishes a new way of working together," says Sherar. "We are taking the initiative to ensure comprehensive services, from prevention, treatment and support, to end of life care, are accessible to our residents in a timely way, regardless of where they live."

The Southwest RCSA has the support of Cancer Care Ontario (CCO), the umbrella organization that steers and coordinates Ontario's cancer services and prevention efforts.

A key priority of CCO's Ontario Cancer Plan is the creation of regional partnerships, called Regional Cancer Programs (RCPs), now being formed across the province. The Southwest RCSA is one of the most advanced RCPs.

"Cancer Care Ontario fully supports this initiative because it will result in better cancer care for Southwest residents," says Terry Sullivan, President and CEO of Cancer Care Ontario. "The goal of Regional Cancer Programs, like the one here in the Southwest, is to bring cancer care providers and community members together so that every patient has access to high quality care as close to home as possible. The accountability agreement represents a major commitment to patients in this region and is an example that other Regional Cancer Programs can learn from."

The Ontario Cancer Plan is a roadmap for CCO, the RCPs and the government to enhance prevention, screening and diagnosis; provide the highest quality care using the best available evidence; and improve access to care by closing the gap between demand and our capacity to treat, reducing wait times and ensuring services are available to all people in Ontario.