Lia Versaevel (Green Party) Response

Dear Candidate:

Over 202,000 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every year, including an estimated 25,600 new cases diagnosed in British Columbia, with approximately 10,100 dying of cancer each year. Clearly, this life-threatening illness affects entire communities, especially families, friends and co-workers.

The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) is a national network of patients, families, survivors, friends, families, community partners and sponsors. Its mission is to work together by taking action to promote the very best standard of care, support, follow up and quality of life for patients and survivors. It aims to educate the public and policy makers about cancer survivorship and encourage research on ways to alleviate barriers to optimal cancer care in Canada.

The government of British Columbia has an important role to play in making sure that everyone diagnosed with cancer has timely access to cancer care and essential medical services as well as access to emergency rooms and the treatment and medications they need. Nearly 300,000 people in BC are without a family doctor (http://www.richmond-news.com/news/doctor-crisis-closes-richmond-clinic-1.14989846).

We invite you to respond to the following questions related to cancer care and healthcare in British Columbia. Your responses will be circulated to cancer patients and survivors in British Columbia and posted on our website, www.survivornet.ca and on our social media.

Question 1:

In a poll conducted by Innovative Research Group in August of 2016, healthcare is the number three issue (behind housing and the economy, and just in front of education) on the minds of BC voters.

If elected:

A) How will your government improve the delivery of cancer care and other healthcare services in BC?

A B.C. Green government will improve cancer care and other healthcare services by integrating healthcare delivery, improving primary care, and increasing multi-disciplinary service. We will work to provide adequate access to health care in both rural and urban communities and preserve universal single-tier health care.

B) Will your government restructure healthcare delivery, and if so, how?

Yes. We will increase the emphasis of healthcare spending on prevention. The challenge with this approach is how to make the transition, as the benefits of illness prevention are seen in the future, while people need treatment now. We will begin with better access to GPs, the implementation of integrated care, and action to reduce waitlists.

C) How will your government ensure that cancer patients receive the services they need, including home care, financial assistance during recovery and for long-term side effects of cancer and/or treatment?

A B.C. Green government will offer financial assistance to cover the costs of patients during recovery and treatment, as well as for home care. We will pay for this through savings on prescription drugs, more efficient healthcare delivery and by utilizing more non-physician healthcare professionals such as nurse practitioners.

D) What will your government do to better the wait time for people who require an operation?

One of the first actions of a B.C. Green government will be to implement a task force to look at how the wait times for surgery can be reduced. It takes more than money to address surgical wait times. Some of the factors affecting these are hospital bed shortages due to lack of community supports for frail seniors; inadequate funding so that hospital operating rooms are not regularly staffed, and hours cannot be extended when needed; lack of a centralized management system for waitlists; and out-dated information systems. The task force will tackle all of these.

Question 2:

A key element of providing timely treatment for cancer patients is ensuring that they have access to the medications they need at the time they need them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in British Columbia.

As of January 31, 2015 British Columbia drug plans covered 19.6% of the 464 new drugs approved by Health Canada from 2004-2013 and the average number days to list the new drug covered under each public drug plan was 787(Coverage for new medicines in Canada’s public drug plans, 2015, Mark Rovere and Dr. Brett J. Skinner).

A) If elected, will your government commit to increasing the number of new cancer and other drugs approved for public reimbursement so that all British Columbians have timely access to the drugs they need, and if so, how will this be accomplished?

A B.C. Green government will work to implement an essential drugs program that will provide an evidence-based, integrated plan that will ensure British Columbians can get the essential pharmaceutical drugs they require in order to treat their illnesses.

B) If elected to government will you undertake negotiations leading to regional collaboration to ensure timely patient access to cancer drugs?

A B.C. Green government would be committed to developing an integrated model of healthcare that would end unequal access to cancer drugs. There have been many different models of care introduced during the last decade in an attempt to move toward integrated care, including regionalization of the B.C. health care system. However, regionalization has not really addressed the problem of fragmented care, where one region on the island, such as the Greater Victoria area, for example, has 22 oncologists, while the central Nanaimo area has none.

Question 3:

A study published from the University of British Columbia says that one in 12 Canadians (aged 55 and older) were the second most likely among comparable countries to stop filling their prescriptions in 2014 because of cost.

A) If elected to government, what will your party do to make prescription medications more affordable?

The cost of prescription drugs prevents too many British Columbians from receiving effective treatment for their illnesses. When these conditions go untreated, it becomes much costlier to deal with the consequences. Our essential drugs program will reduce the cost of prescription drugs and ensure that drug costs are not an obstacle to treatment.

B) Why is there such a difference between BC and other provinces?

Basically, because B.C.’s oversight of prescription drugs has been steadily eroded by the current administration. Drug industry lobbyists have been appointed to the University of B.C. Therapeutics Initiative, the Ministry’s of Health monitoring body, to a panel examining BCPharmacare. These same drug industry lobbyists are now allowed to meet with ministry staff, when they weren’t before the Liberals took power. B.C. used to have independent drug policy researchers who looked at the pricing and safety of drugs. The current government pretty much destroyed that research with the firing scandals five years ago that led to the tragic death of researcher Rod MacIsaac. We also have much higher drug prices here because of the influence of the pharmaceutical companies on government policy. I could go on, but, the bottom line is, we need to strengthen the UBC Therapeutics Initiative and restore its independence, ban pharmaceutical lobbyists from government, and stop taking advice from drug companies on what works best for patients.

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.