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Patients press Notley for campaign promise of one-stop cancer hospital

Watch above: While the PC’s scaled back the Calgary Cancer Centre in their budget, what does the NDP win mean for the centre? Mia Sosiak finds out.

CALGARY – A campaign promise from Premier-elect Rachel Notley is offering new hope for cancer patients and survivors fighting for a world-class, comprehensive facility in Calgary.

“I think we’re back on track, and we’re going to do everything we can to work with the new government to make this a reality,” said John Osler, with the Concerned Citizens for the Calgary Cancer Centre (C5).

Tom Baker Cancer Centre ran out of room a decade ago, so care is spread across the city.

Two years ago, the Redford government announced a $1.3 billion, one-stop cancer hospital to replace the aging and overcrowded Tom Baker Centre at the Foothills Hospital.

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In December, former health minister Stephen Mandel told Global News the province could no longer afford the facility, because of falling oil prices.

C5 gathered hundreds of cancer patients and survivors in downtown Calgary at a rally in support of a hospital.

But in March, then-premier Jim Prentice replaced it with a plan for a smaller, cheaper version situated at South Health Campus.

During the election campaign, Notley criticized that move, and promised to build the hospital at Foothills Hospital on schedule.

“We should be investing in moving forward the construction and completion of that hospital as originally promised,” Notley said  April 16 in the Calgary community of Hillhurst.

The day after her win, Premier-elect Notley wouldn’t specify plans.

The province already spent $20 million selecting and scoping a comprehensive hospital that would provide world-class outcomes for cancer patients in southern Alberta by allowing doctors, researchers and educators to work side-by-side.

READ MORE: Calgary cancer centre to fight with Edmonton hospitals over $900M

Researcher and physician Dr. Morley Hollenberg is figuring out what makes certain prostate cancer cells spread faster than others.

Breakthroughs come, Hollenberg said, when doctors treating patients and University of Calgary researchers interact daily under one roof.  He said South Health Campus, located 30 kilometres away, wouldn’t offer that, adding online or phone communication can’t replace face to face interaction.

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“We’re dealing with the causes and prevention and bringing the most up-to-date therapy for our cancer patients here and now,” Dr. Hollenberg said.

That’s something Mary Beth Eckersley is counting on.

Her fight with breast cancer includes running all over Calgary for surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

“My fingers are still crossed; I’m very hopeful,” said Eckersley.

Under the Prentice budget, the scaled-down cancer care facility had to share $1 billion with two Edmonton hospitals.

But the original project was priced at $1.3 billion, which the Notley government would now have to find.

It involved P3 financing and $200 million in donations from the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

The foundation hasn’t decided whether to resurrect its fundraising campaign.

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