Ontario to spend $17.1M to expand services at UHN, plan to create beam therapy facility

Toronto General Hospital. Mark McAllister / Global News

The Ontario government says it will spend $17.1 million to “expand lifesaving cancer treatment and improve access to care” at University Health Network (UHN), which includes plans to create the country’s first proton beam therapy facility.

In a press release issued Friday, the Ministry of Health said the government will spend up to $5 million to plan for the country’s “first-ever hospital-based proton beam therapy facility,” which it said will “provide innovative lifesaving cancer treatment to patients.”

The UHN includes the Toronto General Hospital, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the Michener Institute of Education.

According to the ministry, proton beam therapy is an advanced form of cancer treatment that delivers radiation therapy to targeted tumour cells. The treatment reduces radiation to surrounding healthy tissues.

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“Patients who receive this innovative treatment may have fewer long-term side effects, especially children with brain tumours and adults with certain types of cancer,” the release reads.

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Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the Ford government is “building a stronger, more resilient health care system” that “ensures all Ontarians have access to the high-quality care they need and deserve.”

“By investing in UHN’s new proton beam therapy facility, we are bringing innovative new technology to Ontario, making it easier and more convenient for patients to receive treatment close to home,” she said in a statement.

Currently, there is no hospital-based proton beam therapy facility in Canada, meaning those who need the treatment have to travel to the U.S.

According to the Ministry of Health, the UHN’s proton beam therapy facility will include up to five treatment suites to support approximately 1,500 pediatric and adult patients each year.

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The release said the province is working with the Proton Therapy Planning Group, a collaboration between Ontario Health–Cancer Care Ontario, the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario, The Hospital for Sick Children and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre – University Health Network on “further planning.”

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The provincial government also said up to $12.1 million will be used to “support UHN’s Hillcrest Reactivation Centre.

“The centre operates 75 transitional care beds to provide care to patients who are waiting to move from a hospital to home, community or long-term care,” the release reads. “This funding will support key renovations and improve existing infrastructure to ensure patients can continue to receive high-quality care in a comfortable environment.”

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