Rita, a resident of Langley, shows President and CEO Michael Marchbank family photos from her daughter’s wedding last summer
Written by Stephanie Bale, Senior Consultant, Communications and Public Affairs

“I pledge to … follow a bone marrow transplant patient through the process of their care.”

“I pledge to … follow a bone marrow transplant patient through the process of their care.”

Providing more coordinated care closer to home is better for patients and families. This is why our President and CEO Michael Marchbank believes bringing bone marrow transplantation services to Fraser Health is an important step in growing our services.

“Opening a leukemia/bone marrow transplant (BMT) program in Fraser Health fits with our long-term vision to boost capacity in the health care system and to expand our specialized services,” he said. “It could potentially serve 30 per cent of B.C.’s bone marrow transplant patients who live in Fraser Health communities.”

Getting to know bone marrow transplantation

In November 2017, Michael toured the BMT clinics at Vancouver General Hospital with the goal of learning about the services and talking to people about their experiences. While he was there he met several Fraser Health residents who are patients of the provincial Leukemia/BMT program located at Vancouver General Hospital.

In the Vancouver-based program, a primary physician oversees care planning for patients from admission to long-term follow up. On a daily basis, patients receive care from an attending staff physician and they receive specialized one-to-one nursing support to meet their complex care needs. An extensive team of specialized professionals also support patient care needs, including clinical pharmacists, BMT coordinators, social workers, dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychiatrists, dentists, clinical researchers and a pastoral chaplain.

Meeting Patients

Rita, a resident of Langley, shows President and CEO Michael Marchbank family photos from her daughter’s wedding last summerRita, a resident of Langley, shows Michael family photos from her daughter’s wedding last summer.

Last summer Rita was preparing to travel to attend her daughter’s wedding in Mexico, when a biopsy confirmed her cancer was back.

Determined not to miss her daughter’s wedding, Rita accepted strict instructions from her doctor and took the trip. When she returned, her chemotherapy treatment began and she was admitted to Vancouver General Hospital for stem cell transplant care at the Leukemia/BMT program.

Rita maintains her positive outlook on life and intends to stay in touch with Fraser Health to share patient insights on the creation of a BMT program within Fraser Health.

Michael also met Lindsay, a young Port Coquitlam resident whose father drives her to the outpatient BMT clinic several times each week. Traffic congestion on their route that day added 40 minutes to an already long drive to Vancouver. Delays such as this are frustrating and unhealthy stress-inducers for families travelling from Fraser Health communities to access care in Vancouver sometimes daily for several weeks at a time.

“As a kinesiologist I’m accustomed to caring for my own patients, not being on the receiving end of care,” says Lindsay. “I’m thankful to the BMT staff for everything they have done for me.”

CEO BMTMichael speaks with the BMT inpatient team at Vancouver General Hospital about their services: (left to right) Jessie, director; Michael, CEO of Fraser Health; Rebecca, clinical nurse educator; Julie, patient services manager; and Laura, patient care coordinator. 
BMTVGHClinical BMT discussions continue in the outpatient daycare clinic with Michael, CEO of Fraser Health: (left to right) Dr. Broady, program medical director; Valerie, patient services manager; and Jessie, director. 

What’s next?

“After meeting Vancouver’s Bone Marrow Transplant team I’ve gained a better understanding of their services and the complexities we’ll encounter in establishing a similar program in Fraser Health,” said Michael. “Talking to patients and learning about their experiences has left me with the impression that this service is clearly needed in our region.”

Bringing BMT to Fraser Health will be a partnership between Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Provincial Health Services Authority (BC Cancer Agency). It will require a phased approach, the first of which will begin in the next month or so, by starting to recruit hematologists.

“We have just begun our work and we will be learning from BMT patients and teams as we work toward our own Fraser Health program,” said Michael.

More about the Provincial Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) program

Vancouver Coastal Health and Provincial Health Services Authority jointly operate the Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) program of B.C. that performs 250 bone marrow transplants and has 17,000 patient visits annually.

Patients live in the hospital inpatient clinic for blood and bone marrow transplants and they see the outpatient daycare clinic, sometimes daily, for post-hospital support, chemotherapy, antibiotics and blood transfusions. Patients also see their physician and primary hematologist on-site in the doctor’s clinic. Patients are involved with the program for months and sometimes longer than a year for their follow up.

Michael made his Change Day pledge in October 2017 along with other senior executives. Overall, Fraser Health colleagues made the most Change Day pledges in the province – 2,293 commitments to improvement and change! Watch for more stories about our executive’s pledges.

You can learn about the Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant program in Vancouver.

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