When Brian Sweet speaks about his battle with cancer, you quickly understand how much the love and support of his wife Annette has meant to him. It’s clear that their bond has made a difference as Brian has faced chemotherapy and stem cell transplant treatments. His next comments almost always praise the staff and physicians at the Supportive Care Clinic at Toronto’s Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH).
He is grateful for the care and concern he has received from the entire team, making special mention of the doctor who has looked after him since 2008, Humber River physician Abe Reinhartz. “The program here at Humber River is phenomenal,” Mr. Sweet points out. “Dr. Reinhartz is wonderful. The nurses go above and beyond and everyone is always available for anything we need. All of them: Dr. Wilson; Dr. Berger; the nurses and staff; are amazing.” “Without Dr. Reinhartz who knows how things would have turned out for us,” Mrs. Sweet says. The pain and discomfort most patients diagnosed with cancer experience during and post chemotherapy treatment can be life-altering.
The Supportive Care Clinic at Toronto’s Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH), developed several years ago under the leadership of Dr. Reinhartz, aims to address what can be for many of these individuals significant lifestyle challenges. “The chemo drugs are toxic to nerves, and often cause peripheral neuropathies: pain, sometimes severe; numbness; tingling; burning sensations,” notes Dr. Reinhartz. “These symptoms can continue post-treatment, and for a cancer patient, or a cancer survivor, can be very difficult to deal with.” Dr. Reinhartz’s passion for his patients becomes very evident when he speaks about the challenges his patients face. “Our clinic is dedicated to improving quality of life issues, not just for our patients, but for their friends and family who see their loved one battle with the pain and discomfort of cancer, and sometimes with the associated treatment therapies. That’s why our Supportive Care Clinic plays such a key role in our Oncology Program. It completes the circle of care by addressing a gap that exists too often in cancer care programs.” “We’re focused on life,” Reinhartz, a Member of the American Academy of Palliative & Hospice Medicine, insists. “We’re about helping current cancer patients, and cancer survivors, live as full a life as they can. We do discuss end of life issues when the time is right, and we understand that is unfortunately a reality associated with what we do. But before then it’s about helping them thrive for whatever time they may have left.”
“Our Accreditation Canada survey this past December made note of the fact that our excellent multidisciplinary team approach to oncology and palliative care was a strength of our hospital, and this clinic reflects that approach,” Lisa Lun, Clinical Nurse Specialist for Humber’s Integrated Cancer Care Program, points out. “The surveyors also made note of how our team tries to involve palliative care early in the disease trajectory for pain and symptom control, and how the team makes time to listen to and support patients. That’s the standard we strive for every day. Dr. Reinhartz really championed this clinic, and it has helped make us better care providers,” Ms. Lun explains. “Many of our patients who require symptom management support are mobile enough that they can come here for their care instead of relying on in-home care visits, freeing up those resources for others in our community who need the services of a home visiting palliative physician. Because some of our patients, while on chemotherapy treatment, are also followed at the Supportive Care Clinic, we’ve also noticed an improvement in our patients need to access the Emergency Department. The clinic’s care team collaborates closely with our oncology and palliative care community partners. This ongoing collaboration has helped our patients achieve their goals.” “Brian had a problem with his blood pressure being too low, and as a result had to come off the stem cell transplant list,” Annette Sweet recalls. “Thanks to Dr. Reinhartz we were able to deal with it in the clinic and get Brian back on the list quickly. Abe has always gone out of his way to make sure Brian is on the right track. You can depend on him.”
The clinic offers benefits to other parts of the system as well. “It’s difficult to look after these patients in a primary care setting,” Reinhartz explains. “They often require care that is too advanced to be provided in a family physician setting. There’s someone here for them whenever they need us: daily, weekly, monthly; whatever their care calls for.” “I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Reinhartz for over 20 years,” says Dr. Jack Barkin, Humber River’s Chief of Staff. “I know that his late father-in-law, Dr Murray Rotstein, was a great doctor and a mentor for him, but Abe has always dedicated himself to expanding his medical knowledge and expertise. He approaches his patients with respect, humor, insight and dedication. It is a tremendous pleasure and benefit for HRRH to have Abe as an active staff member.” “Dr. Reinhartz has always been there for us,” Brian Sweet says. “It’s a relief to know that I have someone like him, and a place like this, to come to for care.”