Regional Pharmacy Network

The Juravinski Cancer Centre (formerly Hamilton Regional Cancer Centre) coordinates chemotherapy services in central south and central west Ontario through collaborative partnerships with five community hospitals. This means that some patients can receive all or part of their treatment at community oncology clinics that are close to home.

The on-going challenge of this decentralized system is to ensure that the same care is provided in the community clinics as at the Cancer Centre. With chemotherapy this is particularly difficult since the drug regimes are complicated and new medications are constantly being developed. In order to maintain the same standard of care throughout the system, there must be good communication between the Centre and the clinics.

Sandra Kagoma understands this challenge from both sides. She used to be the manager of the community hospital pharmacy in Brantford and is now the pharmacy manager at the Juravinski Cancer Centre.

When Sandra joined the Cancer Centre, she saw an opportunity to facilitate communication by creating a regional pharmacy network. It’s an initiative aimed at bridging the gap between the Centre and the community oncology clinics that deliver chemotherapy in Brantford, Burlington, Cambridge, St. Catharines and Guelph.

“By sharing our professional practices, we can improve communication and the quality of care that we all provide for our cancer patients,” said Sandra. “The major thrust of the pharmacy network is that although we are separated geographically, we remain united with a single vision – to standardize oncology pharmacy care for our patients in the region.”

The network gathered for the first time last October. Almost 60 participants attended the daylong retreat, the majority being pharmacists and pharmacy technicians from across the region. They shared information and ideas, culminating with an evaluation, which provided information for the next steps. The contacts made during that inaugural meeting have led to closer relationships and improved communication.

Pharmacists within the region have since met for an educational session to learn more about how to interpret cancer literature. A group of pharmacy technicians have also met to develop a training tool to standardize the certification of technicians who prepare chemotherapy. As well, members of the Network now receive a newsletter prepared by the pharmacists at the Juravinski Cancer Centre.

Soon the 2003 cancer regimen formulary – a reference tool that lists chemotherapy regimens and all the supportive information that goes along with each regimen – will be completed. But, instead of receiving a traditional book or binder, the formulary has been developed into software, which will automate the process of updating the information in the formulary and provide timely access to cancer regimen information for all our users. “It will be more efficient for everyone, both here at the Cancer Centre and in the community,” said Sandra.

Jeff Thompson, the pharmacy manager for Brant Community Healthcare System in Brantford, feels he and his staff are benefiting from the network.

“The network has provided a framework for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to share their knowledge and ideas directly with their peers at other sites,” said Jeff.

Jeff’s colleague, pharmacy technician Lynda Amorim, agrees. “As pharmacy staff working in a community general hospital, the oncology clinic is only part of our scope of duties,” said Lynda. “Through the network, we are able to maintain a high standard of care and to keep informed on current practices and issues related to oncology pharmacy.”

Carol Rand, Director of Community Oncology and Regional Operations for the Juravinski Cancer Centre, also supports the work of Sandra and her regional team.

“Under Sandra’s leadership, the development and implementation of a regional pharmacy network is meeting the needs of regional pharmacy professionals and more importantly, the needs of our patients,” said Carol. “Together, the network members have developed a shared vision for regional pharmacy services that promotes standardized care and the sharing of best practices.”