Breast Health Centre is on track to open in Regina in spring 2025, province says

Construction on the new Breast Health Centre in Regina is underway.

The facility will function as a central resource for women who are being evaluated for, or have been diagnosed with, breast cancer.

The centre, located in the Regina Centre Crossing building at 1621 Albert St., will provide diagnostic imaging, consultation with specialists and surgeons, patient education and support and navigation.

It will also offer on-site access to post-treatment care, such as therapies and rehabilitation, according to a provincial news release Wednesday morning.

This construction update comes as the province continues to work through significant backlogs in breast cancer screening and surgical consultation.

The government says the centre will be operated by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and is expected to open its doors at the end of this fiscal year in spring 2025.

According to the province, family physicians and nurse practitioners will be able to provide a referral to the centre, instead of having to co-ordinate multiple referrals for their patients, reducing wait times.

At a press event on-location Wednesday afternoon, surgeon Dr. Sarah Miller said the centre will attract professionals including surgeons and breast diagnostic specialists to Regina.

"If you are going out and doing a fellowship in breast cancer care, you're working in a facility like this," Miller said.

The floor plan for Regina's new Breast Health Centre at 1621 Albert Street.
The floor plan for Regina's new Breast Health Centre at 1621 Albert St. (Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC)

While the Albert Street centre is not yet fully staffed, Miller said, the SHA has made good progress without poaching people from other under-staffed health-care facilities.

In fact, Miller said, two surgeons from outside of Saskatchewan have already been hired — one from Ontario, the other a University of Saskatchewan graduate who is returning to the province. The centre is expected to be fully staffed in time for its spring opening.

Hoping to assure Saskatchewan women

The provincial government is putting up $3.6 million this year for the centre's renovations, staffing and diagnostic equipment, according to the news release.

"We want to ensure that women across this province do have access to the care they need so they have that assurance that we are going to try to have that here in Saskatchewan as quickly as possible," Health Minister Everett Hindley told reporters at Wednesday's press event.

Hindley said the centre is projected to serve more than 5,000 patients from Regina and across southern Saskatchewan once it opens. He, like Miller, said the SHA and province are working to recruit new personnel for the centre, rather than redirecting or relocating them from other parts of the province.

Hindley said two local Regina radiologists are currently finishing their breast specialization fellowships out of province. Those fellowships are expected to be completed by September and January. The radiologists will return to Saskatchewan with the ability to perform breast-specific diagnostic screening.

"I'm very confident that we have momentum building and [will] continue to build on this. And we'll be able to reduce those wait times for women," Hindley said.

A nurse navigator was recently hired for the new centre, and a second nurse navigator position has just been posted, according to Hindley. These health-care professionals help patients through their cancer diagnosis, which includes advocating for their care.

Minister of Health Everett Hindley says the new Breast Health Centre will provide diagnostic imaging, consultation with specialists and surgeons, patient education and support and navigation.
Minister of Health Everett Hindley says the new Breast Health Centre will provide services including diagnostic imaging, consultation with specialists and surgeons, and patient education and support. (Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC)

Hindley said the Ministry of Health is working fast to address the needs of women.

"This stuff doesn't happen overnight, but just given where things were this fall, it really accelerated the issue," Hindley said, referring to the major backlog of women needing breast biopsies and mammograms.

"In some respects it is a marathon, but it never really ends. You really need to keep your eye on the ball all the time to make sure that you have the care of patients are front and foremost."

Additional supports in breast care

The province also listed other initiatives in Saskatchewan that are either underway or in the planning process to "enhance care and ensure it is provided in a timely manner." They include a phased expansion of breast screening eligibility to those aged 40 to 49, which is set to begin in January 2025.

The province says it's also working on continuing to provide additional capacity in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw. It says that since November 2023, this initiative has provided 220 "long-waiting and urgent patients from Regina and southern Saskatchewan with timely access to breast diagnostic procedures."

The government also pointed to its implementation of the out-of-province breast diagnostics initiative, which has provided more than 240 patients with urgent breast diagnostic procedures at a private Clearpoint clinic in Calgary, according to the provincial news release.

In response to the update on the centre, Opposition health critic Vicki Mowat said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the NDP have been calling for improved breast care for months.

However, she said, the Opposition has "zero faith that the Sask. Party will be able to fix the crisis they created."