Nfld. & Labrador

As N.L. health services start to resume, some patients are still waiting — and wondering

Services are slowly resuming after last week's cyberattack on Newfoundland and Labrador's health-care system but some patients are still in limbo.

'Every time the phone rings I'm hoping it's a call from them,' says Joyce Skanes

Joyce Skanes says waiting to find out when her next palliative chemotherapy appointment would be was hard on her and her family. (Submitted by Joyce Skanes)

Services are slowly resuming after last week's cyberattack on Newfoundland and Labrador's health-care system, but some patients are still in limbo. 

Joyce Skanes of Conception Bay South is undergoing palliative chemotherapy. After missing her appointment last week as a result of the cyberattack she was left wondering when her treatment would get back on track.

Palliative chemotherapy is given to people whose cancer cannot be cured, used to prolong the life of the patient for as long as possible. 

"Chemotherapy … hopefully will work, in many cases it does, but with my kind of cancer, which is an aggressive, advanced cancer, the likelihood of it coming back is very high," Skanes said. 

After missing her chemo appointment last week, Skanes said, she didn't hear anything from Eastern Health until Tuesday evening, when after CBC aired an interview with her, she received a call to book her next apointment. She called the lack of communication "disturbing."

"I'm considered terminal, so there's no cure, so I have to do everything I can to keep it at bay, keep it from spreading any further." 

Skanes began chemotherapy in August and so far has had three sessions. She said two of the sessions had very positive results but the results of the third session have been unavailable to her because of the cyberattack. She's now booked for Friday, just over a week from her original appointment.

Priorities

Skanes said she was worried her health would slip again if she missed more treatments. 

"I did manage to speak with somebody, and they said the treatments were based on clinical priority. When I asked her what clinical priority meant, I couldn't really get a clear answer," said Skanes before she got the call to rebook. 

"It was rambling on, some talk of new patients, some talk about types of cancer … types that can be managed and cured. When I mentioned my type and me being terminal, I never received any answer for that."

Skanes says she wants to know what clinical priority is based on. (Paul Daly/CBC)

Skanes said waiting to hear about her next treatment was hard on her and her family.

In a statement to CBC News on Tuesday, Eastern Health said chemotherapy appointments within the provincial cancer-care program resumed Nov. 4. The health authority said all patients whose appointments were cancelled up to that date have been contacted and scheduled for a new appointment that will take place within the next week.

Eastern Health said cancer care program staff are working on rescheduling patients who were scheduled for appointments on Nov. 5 and later.

"It is anticipated that these appointments will be scheduled to take place within the next week, and patients will be contacted by end of day on Nov. 10," reads the statement.

Outside St. John's, chemotherapy appointments under the regional medicine program/emergency and ambulatory care program, which includes the Health Sciences ambulatory treatment unit and the Carbonear, Clarenville, Bonavista, Burin, Placentia and Whitbourne sites, resumed Nov. 5.

"All patients within this program whose appointments were cancelled last week have now been contacted with a new appointment time, which will take place within the next week," said Eastern Health.

"Eastern Health is continuing to support the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information as they work with others to resolve the IT systems outage that is affecting health-related services in our region."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Peter Cowan

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