Arnie Thiessen recalls having to rig up an antenna from his bed in the oncology unit of Royal University Hospital last year. He wanted internet access to stay in touch with family and friends he couldn’t see due to his confinement to the closed room. But there was no internet access. And Thiessen was there for about a month.

On May 13, Saskatoon Health Region showed off the newly-renovated Unit 6100 at RUH: a new six-bed suite with positive-pressure, high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered rooms. Not only is the suite equipped to care for highly-immune-compromised patients, but it also has internet access.

It’s the small touches in the unit that are going to make the patient’s confinement to the space much easier. “Especially when you’re up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep,” says Thiessen. “You don’t have to lay there and stare at the ceiling.”

Arnie Thiessen, a member of the Stem Cell Advocacy Transplant Group (STEM) speaks to reporters at the unveiling of the unit.

Each patient room has its own bathroom with automatic toilets, faucets and paper towel dispensers. Each room also has its own HEPA filter, fan, temperature control and air pressure monitor. This allows patients some freedom in moving around their room and through the unit without worry about infection.

The unit cost $2.7 million to renovate and was funded by the Ministry of Health.

The opening of the unit marks the continued success of a renewed vision for the Blood and Marrow Transplant program in Saskatchewan. Groups such as the Stem Cell Advocacy transplant Group (STEM), the Saskatchewan Cancery Agency, both Saskatoon and Regina-Qu’Appelle Health Regions and the Ministry of Health worked together to make this happen.

“There are no words to express how grateful we are,” says Patty Stevens, a member of STEM and a transplant patient.