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A crisis in cancer care


Cancer is a ticking time bomb.

Specialists are warning about the tsunami of cancer that is about to ensue.

They are also warning that they are seeing later stage cancers in greater numbers and sounding the alarm bell that the list of those waiting to get into see a specialist is now in the millions.

Is it really that serious? It is.

The difference between life and death for cancer patients can be the time it takes for diagnosis and treatment.

In a British Medical Journal article by Hanna (2020), it was shown that for every week of delay after diagnosis, survival is shortened by 1.2-3.2% per week of delay.

So imagine waiting three months!

That is what British Columbians are doing right now. They are waiting months for treatment.

Which is why our outcomes are getting worse, and our wait lists longer.

I have been speaking with constituents who are being given these wait times.

A patient given six months to live if not treated, and then being told that the first meeting with a specialist is going to be three months away.

A woman in her forties waiting months for “minor” surgery to remove cancerous tissue in her cervix, only to have it grow and need a full hysterectomy.

Another, who is being told that she has to wait two months for radiation.

We need better cancer care.

BC is experiencing the longest waits in Canada, and this is unacceptable!

What can be done?

We need system-wide changes but this is not about tweaking the edges or giving minor amounts of money.

This is about radical overhaul.

BC Cancer delivered a ten year cancer plan, but has yet to see it accepted or funded.

Meanwhile, people die on waiting lists.

Our Oncologists are burning out because of the lack of resources and massive underfunding.

A study recently done shows that BC is the worst for burnout in Canada.

The same study showed that they are not being consulted enough in policy decisions.

While the Minister of Health spoke of new positions being funded, 18 oncologists have left BC because of the working conditions.

We aren’t supporting our BC Cancer medical team.

Things also have to change with the BC Cancer leadership structure and how cancer treatment is being administered.

We need proactive, funded, predictive planning that will accommodate the capacity necessary to treat cancer.

The Minister has been asked repeatedly about this, and his answer is that they might have one.

Not public though.

Clearly this is not working.

BC has fallen from first place in cancer outcomes in Canada, to last place in wait times (the longest) in Canada according the the Canadian Institute for Health Information(CIHI).

What we can’t see in their numbers, that would be even worse for BC, are the layered effects of waiting.

Waiting to see a family doctor, waiting for imaging studies, waiting for biopsy booking, waiting for results to be reported, waiting to see an oncologist for consultation, and waiting to have treatment once a decision has been made to treat.

Last week in Question Period, we stood up and asked these questions.

Why are British Columbians at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to outcomes and waiting?

This has to stop.

My question to you this week is this:

How much priority should be given to cancer treatment in our healthcare spending?

I love hearing from you. Email me at Renee.Merrifield.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call the office at 250-712-3620.

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