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Wilmington To Host Disaster Preparedness Conference On Cancer Treatment

By Johanna Cano, posted Jun 21, 2019
Area hospital and health care leaders will meet Saturday for the N.C. Radiation Oncology Disaster Preparedness Conference, a statewide session hosted in Wilmington, according to a news release.

The conference was established following Hurricane Florence, which interrupted treatment for some cancer patients who were undergoing radiation therapy when the storm made landfall in September, according to the release.

“The goal is to establish disaster preparedness guidelines, protocols and a proactive radiation oncology network and safety net to minimize or eliminate the interruption of radiation treatment during future natural disasters or other catastrophic events,” stated the release.

The conference is hosted by South East Area Health Education Center, a nonprofit that seeks to bring medical service to rural communities and offer continuing education for physicians, New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Greensboro-based Cone Health.

As of Friday morning, about 56 people had signed up to attend, according to Julian March, spokesman for NHRMC.

Speakers at the conference include Michael Papagikos, conference co-director and radiation oncologist with NHRMC, and Matthew Manning, conference co-director and interim chief of oncology with Cone Health.

Both Papagikos and Manning have been leading efforts to ensure preparations are in place for radiation oncology patients in the event of a future storm.

"Cancer patients are a particularly vulnerable patient population and natural disasters can threaten the continuity of their care. Treatment protocols are carefully designed to occur over a very specific time period,” Papagikos said in an email. “Radiation therapy, for example, is often scheduled daily for anywhere from 2 to 9 weeks. It is very important that once patients start their treatment that they finish on schedule. When there are interruptions during a course of radiation, the effectiveness of the treatment can be compromised, resulting in worse outcomes."

Gov. Roy Cooper is scheduled to deliver remarks from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

The conference will take place at Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront at 9 Estell Lee Place from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“This interactive conference will bring together industry leaders in healthcare, technology,
and disaster management providing an innovative platform for robust dialog and solutions,” stated a conference brochure.

Discussions topics will include the Hurricane Florence experience, barriers related to transferring care, disaster preparedness in health care and cloud-based solutions and risks.
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