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Patient's bill of rights


This last week NDP Minister of Health Adrian Dix was in town to make some announcements. 


The first day was at the BC Cancer clinic. It ended up not being an announcement, but an update on the 10-year cancer plan. However, the update given highlights more of their shortcomings than solutions. 


Under the current NDP government, BC's cancer care has suffered a dramatic decline. What was once heralded as Canada's best is now a system in chaos, with critical wait times skyrocketing. 


According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, radiation treatment wait times in BC are now the worst in Canada. The numbers released confirm a dramatic deterioration across all key performance benchmarks between 2017/18 and 2023/24:

  • IV chemotherapy treatment wait times are 13% worse.

  • Radiation therapy treatment wait times are 18% worse.

  • Radiation oncology consult wait times are 16% worse.

  • Medical oncology consult wait times are 28% worse.


The government's response has been inadequate, filled with stopgap measures, and lacking in deliverables or clear planning. It's so bad that patients are being sent to the U.S. for treatment, but that program isn’t even succeeding.


The announcement made a year ago indicated that over 4,800 patients would be helped by sending them to Washington state for treatment, representing approximately 2,400 patients per year. 


According to the latest report, once again, the program has failed to meet targets. 

  • 2,442 patients were referred to receive radiation treatment

  • 684 patients received a consult

  • 640 started treatment

  • Only 599 (457 breast cancer and 142 prostate) completed radiation therapy. 


The second day of Dix’s announcements was almost like déjà vu rather than progress, as the NDP government re-announced the creation of care home spaces initially promised in 2020.


Families in Kelowna have been waiting anxiously for seven years, hoping for a place in long-term care facilities for their loved ones, only to see promises recycled without tangible results. The situation is dire, and the toll on families and the healthcare system is severe.


Where do these loved ones go while they wait? Often to a family member’s home, but sometimes, when things are too difficult or family is not around or available, they simply stay in the hospital, in the Alternate Level of Care (ALC) ward.


Consider the cost of Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients, who occupy around 70 hospital beds on average. These individuals no longer need hospital-level care but can't be discharged due to the lack of appropriate long-term care spaces. 


This bottleneck exacerbates hospital overcrowding and delays critical care for other patients. Families share heart-wrenching stories of their loved ones languishing in hospitals, deprived of the specialized care they desperately need. 


The government's re-announcement of these spaces while not delivering on them is not just a bureaucratic failure but a moral one, affecting the most vulnerable in our society.

And these beds are not ready. The press conference was done in front of empty lots which means that we are 3-6 years away from a bed being available.

Kelowna deserves much better results.


What is the solution?


The BC United announcement this week offers an immediate and pragmatic solution. A commitment to a Patient Bill of Rights aims to ensure timely and effective care, providing a framework for accountability and expedited service delivery. This initiative includes clear timelines for care – whether the creation of care home spaces or cancer treatment - and emphasizes patient-centric policies that prioritize the needs of families and patients alike.


The Patient Bill of Rights includes several critical elements designed to transform and improve the current system: Publicly funded healthcare delivered at private facilities, transparent access to your health records, and specific, transparent healthcare performance targets for the system to achieve.


The focus must shift from political posturing to genuine action, ensuring that no more families are left waiting in despair. It's time for a healthcare system that delivers the healthcare we all deserve.


My question to you is this: What do you want included in a Patient’s Bill of Rights?


I love hearing from you and read every email you write. 


Please email me at Renee.Merrifield.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call the office at 250-712-3620.

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