Cancer facility is great, but parking is a problem

People are definitely in favour of expanding the Central Alberta Cancer Centre at Red Deer’s hospital to provide radiation therapy.

Dr. Marc MacKenzie

Dr. Marc MacKenzie

People are definitely in favour of expanding the Central Alberta Cancer Centre at Red Deer’s hospital to provide radiation therapy.

But they want to know where patients and staff at the facility will park.

The $60-million centre is expected to treat about 900 patients coming for multiple treatments when it opens in 2012. About 20 highly trained staff will operate the facility to be located on the west side of the hospital.

In an area already known for its lack of parking, a few people at a public information session to discuss the new radiation treatment facility wanted to make sure Alberta Health Services doesn’t forget to increase parking.

“A parkade should be built before this is finished so that it takes the strain off of the area. People drive around. They can’t find a spot,” said Kelly McVittie, of Red Deer, who came out to the session held Wednesday night at the hospital.

“The facility is wonderful. But I think city planning, with the hospital, needs to be one jump ahead of this.”

Jason Mudry, project manager for the cancer centre, said Alberta Health Services is working with the city to develop a parking plan, but how or where those new stalls will be has not yet been determined.

“We realize we need to provide more parking. We realize what the need is,” Mudry said.

Both the radiation project and a parking plan will go before the city’s municipal planning committee for approval probably in the spring, he said.

About 20 people attended the information session Wednesday.

Dr. Marc MacKenzie, senior medical physicist from Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute, gave a short presentation to explain the project as part of a requirement by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in order to obtain a licence to construct the facility.

“When people hear the word radiation, sometimes they get nervous,” MacKenzie said.

But the three treatment suites will located in the basement to contain radiation, plus they will have “incredibly thick” high density concrete walls of about two-metres.

The location and design of the radiation suites means exposure to radiation will be negligible, he said.

“If you were immediately outside, in the public areas around these radiation vaults where we’re going to have these high energy x-ray treatment machines, about 1/50th of your daily background radiation is what you would receive if you stood there all year.”

Once the expansion is complete, between 75 to 80 per cent of people will be able to get the radiation therapy they need in Red Deer for breast, prostate, gastrointestinal, urinary system cancers and palliative treatments to manage pain.

Other rarer forms of cancer will be treated in Edmonton or Calgary.