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New cancer centre coming to Nanaimo: B.C. Health Minister

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If you live anywhere on Vancouver Island and get diagnosed with cancer, chances are you'll be making a trip to the South Island.

Victoria has the only cancer care centre on Vancouver Island, but there's a push to change that.

"People routinely have to drive the Malahat to go down to Victoria for their treatment and that could be several times a week," said Ian Thorpe, board chair of the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District.

As the province announces a new high acuity unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, the hospital district says it's also time to build a cancer centre.

"We serve a population north of the Malahat – through Nanaimo, North Island – a population greater than is served by the hospitals of Victoria," said Thorpe.

"And they have two hospitals and their level of staffing is way beyond what we have here," he said. "So the need is great."

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says cancer diagnoses in the province will grow from 30,000 annually to 40,000 per year in the next decade.

"This is particularly true on Vancouver Island, which has a relatively older population and is facing more age-related cancer," he said.

Moving forward, Dix says Nanaimo "will be a centre for communities on the Mid- and North Island for cancer care."

That cancer care facility is currently in its planning stage, and no deadline has been announced by the province.

"It’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of effort, but the need is there and I think our community is really supportive of working toward that," said Thorpe.

Community members who are used to spending hours travelling and racking up mileage on their vehicles are looking forward to spending less time on the road and more time with their loved ones. 

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