Southlake’s Thoracic Program delivers quality care closer to home

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Cancer. Few other words have the power to leave people quite so shaken, frightened and angry. Few other illnesses carry equivalent fears of both the diagnosis and the treatment.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, lung cancer is the most preventable of all cancers and yet it remains both the most frequently diagnosed and the leading cause of cancer death for men and women.

Newmarket’s Southlake Regional Health Centre is hoping to have a positive impact on this discouraging trend through its regional thoracic program. Dedicated to developing tertiary-level services for the people of York Region and surrounding communities, Southlake has established satellite clinics at Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville and Orillia Soldier’s Memorial Hospital, so thoracic surgeon, Dr. Julius Toth can assess and follow up with his patients in the community hospital that is closest to them.

“The community we serve is vast so we were eager to find a way to meet our patients in the middle whenever possible,” said Dr. Toth. “Ensuring advanced care is available close to home is a common theme in health care, and our satellite programs are an example of what a positive difference it makes in a patient’s experience.”

Through Southlake’s satellite programs Dr. Toth provides consultations and pre- and post-op services to patients living as far as Huntsville and Midland, saving them the 50 to 100 kilometer drive they would have otherwise faced.

“In my opinion, this is truly what it means to be patient centred,” said Dr. Gord Willans, General Internist at Headwaters Health Care Centre. “By coming to us, Dr. Toth is saving our patients stress and giving them back time with their family.”

According to Dr. Toth, however, establishing satellite programs not only benefits the patients, it also provides the opportunity for him to meet face-to-face with primary care physicians and local consultants, all of which make for greater communication between the two hospitals and health-care teams.

In 2004/2005, Southlake performed more thoracic surgeries for lung and esophagus cancer than all other hospitals in the central LHIN combined. Since joining Southlake’s team in 2002, Dr. Toth alone has managed over 2,000 cases, of which one third were cancer related.

“There are many great organizations doing their best to help people in their fight against this disease and I am proud to have the opportunity to help Southlake prepare for and build a cancer program that will address the overwhelming need for advanced cancer care in York Region,” said Dr. Toth.

As it begins to ramp up for its role as a regional cancer centre, Southlake is expanding its thoracic program and has recruited Dr. Alexander Lee, a surgeon trained in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery from London, Ontario.

Dr. Lee is an expert in minimally invasive thoracic surgery and advanced thoracoscopy and laparoscopy. Over 80 per cent of his operations are done via “keyhole” surgery, an approach that allows for faster recovery, less pain and complications and minimal hospital stay. Dr. Lee established his Newmarket practice in mid-August and, along with Dr. Toth, will focus his practice solely on thoracic surgery. The two are among a handful of surgeons in the country who perform these types of procedures routinely.

“I am very excited to be joining Dr. Toth and the rest of the team at Southlake,” said Dr. Lee. “I strongly believe in the hospital’s vision, mission and values and I look forward to being a part of the York Region community.”

By 2008, Southlake plans to open its cancer centre, where more than one million people who live in York Region will, for the first time, have access to radiation therapy as part of their comprehensive cancer treatment, including radiation therapy.

“The latest approaches to cancer care focus on a multidisciplinary approach,” says Dr. Balogh, Southlake’s Vice-President of Regional Programs. “Our new regional cancer centre allows for integration between surgical, medical and radiation oncology, all under one roof.”

Southlake will offer a full range of services including diagnostics, surgery, chemotherapy, support services, clinical trials and radiation therapy, a treatment that York Region residents have to travel to Toronto to receive.

More information about the Regional Cancer Centre at Southlake can be found at www.southlakeregional.org.