RIH gets $1-million donation for breast health clinic

Rae Fawcett donated $1 million to the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation

Ron (left) and Rae Fawcett joined Royal Inland Hospital Foundation CEO Heidi Coleman

Ron (left) and Rae Fawcett joined Royal Inland Hospital Foundation CEO Heidi Coleman

By Dale Bass

Kamloops This Week

Rae Fawcett often paddles with local dragon boaters.

And, while the sport is not exclusive to them, many of the boaters have had breast cancer.

On Thursday, Fawcett formalized her own support for these women and many more like them as she donated $1 million to the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation, money to be used for the new rapid access breast health clinic that will open later this year in the new clinical-services building fronting Columbia Street.

Part of the money will also go toward a simulation room at the hospital, a place hospital administrator Carol Laberge said will have specialized dolls that can talk, cry “and even deliver babies,” all available to help teach new procedures to medical staff and UBC medical students who will also be in the building.

Fawcett said that part of her donation has special meaning to her family.

Her youngest son was born with a congenital heart defect and, with no simulation clinics available then, doctors at Vancouver General Hospital asked the Fawcetts if they could bring other doctors in to learn from their son’s condition.

Breast cancer has also touched the family, she told the group gathered at the hospital on Thursday for the formal announcement. Her mother-in-law was diagnosed with the disease years ago and had to leave her home in Prince George and travel to Vancouver for surgery and chemotherapy.

“So I’m glad to see it’s all changed,” Fawcett said.

The clinic will speed up the timeline from mammography to diagnosis, said Dr. Liz Ewart.

Today, a person with a lump in their breast — a condition not exclusive to women — faces a wait of three to 12 weeks for a diagnosis, a time that is “frightening and frustrating,” Ewart said.

The new clinic will be able to do a mammogram and, if necessary and ultrasound and biopsy, on the same day.

It means fewer trips to the hospital for those who live outside Kamloops.

With a doctor and nurse available, it provides needed medical care for those who do not have a general practitioner.

And, Ewart said, with less time spent waiting and more immediate access to breast-health services, potential cancers should be caught at early stages.

The clinic has been a goal for Dr. Robert Colistro, who started researching models about three years ago. With the co-ordinated care, he saw the potential to speed up the diagnosis and make the patient’s medical journey less stressful.

Royal Inland Foundation board president Al Gozda said the clinic’s potential is “a huge, huge step forward” and praised Fawcett for her donation, noting she had made it to also inspire others to support the clinic.

The facts on breast cancer

• On average, 135 women in the Thompson-Nicola region are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

• Provincially, there were an estimated 3,400 new cases last year.

• Nationally, it is estimated 25,000 women and 220 men were diagnosed with breast cancer last year, an average of 68 diagnoses every day.

• One in nine Canadian women are expected to develop breast cancer.