Up to 1,500 cancer patients in York Region and southern Simcoe County will be spared daily three-hour treks to downtown Toronto thanks to the opening of a new radiation therapy centre in Newmarket.

The radiation facility, part of the new Stronach Regional Cancer Centre at the Southlake Regional Health Centre, officially opened yesterday. It’s part of the hospital’s $110-million cancer program.

“I’m so grateful not to have to travel downtown everyday for treatment, especially while not feeling well and having little energy,” Newmarket resident and breast cancer patient Kelly Reevie told a news conference.

The centre’s first patient, Reevie began her daily radiation treatments Monday and has 17 days to go. The convenience of having the facility close to home means she can continue her home-based work as a medical assistant, something she says she wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.

The radiation therapy centre has three units. Over the next three years, an additional three will be added, allowing the centre to treat more than 2,400 patients annually.

Improving access to care through the development of regional programs throughout the province is a goal of Cancer Care Ontario. The Newmarket centre is the 14th radiation therapy facility to open in the province.

In the last four years, cancer centres have also opened in Peel and Durham and have been expanded in Hamilton and Ottawa. New centres are scheduled to open in the next two years in Barrie, Niagara and Sault Ste. Marie.

“It’s the largest expansion of cancer services in such a short time in the province’s history,” said Terry Sullivan, president of Cancer Care Ontario.