Progressive Conservative Association Of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc.
PO Box 8551s 20 Hallett Crescent s St. John’s, NL s A1B 3P2
Phone: (709) 753-6043 s Fax: (709) 753-6059 s Email: email@example.com
November 26, 2015
Thank you for your letter related to cancer care and health care in Newfoundland and Labrador. I am a cancer survivor, and I share your determination to improve the care we provide to people who are battling cancer. Let me answer your three questions.
Question 1: The Canadian Medical Association Journal published research in 2012 that showed one in ten Canadians report they skip doses or decide not to fill prescriptions because of cost, with the second highest incidence of cost non adherence happening in the Atlantic Provinces. If elected to government, what will your party do to make prescription medications more affordable?
It is absolutely unacceptable for any cancer patient to skip medication or treatment because of cost. We have a program called the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program that covers the costs of medications and treatments for
those who cannot afford them. We provide help to families so they do not have to pay a disproportionate amount of their income to cover treatment costs. We are working with other provinces on joint approaches to bring down the costs of medications. We believe it is time for the Federal Government to come to the table as a partner for national pharmacare. Working together nationally, we can find ways to bring those costs down and ensure that no patient is unable to afford medication or treatment. This is not an issue we are prepared to leave unaddressed.
Question 2: A key element of ensuring timely treatment for a cancer patient is ensuring they have access to the medications they need at the time they need them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in Newfoundland and Labrador.
If elected to government, will you: a) Commit to ensuring that all cancer patients in Newfoundland and Labrador receive timely access to medications at the time they need it? b) Undertake negotiations leading to regional or national collaboration to ensure timely patient access to cancer drugs?
I agree that every patient should have timely access to the medications that patient is prescribed. We will find out when and where patients are being denied timely access to medications, and we will fix it. The function of the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program and indeed of our public health care system is to ensure that people get treatment when they need it. Where the system has shortcomings, we will identify those shortcomings and address them – collaboratively, effectively and swiftly. We have already engaged in discussions regionally and nationally about ensuring timely and affordable access to medications patients need, and we will step up these efforts with the new Federal Government as we drive for a national pharmacare program. We are making progress incrementally, and we will continue to push for an acceptable national pharmacare program.
Question 3: Every citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador should receive the same high-quality, publicly delivered health care available to all Canadians. If elected, how will your party ensure that this happens?
I agree that every citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador should receive the same high- quality, publicly delivered health care available to all Canadians. In some health care procedures, we are in fact leading the country, and we have set our targets just as high for other health care procedures, including cancer care, cardiac care, mental health care and so forth.
Our province now has in place a cancer strategy. The details are accessible on our government’s website /gov.nl.ca/ which states that “Gaining Ground: A Provincial Cancer Control Policy Framework for Newfoundland and Labrador” was released on November 2, 2010. “This Framework outlines the Provincial Government’s response to the burden of cancer in the province and provides a foundation upon which government, the regional health authorities and community-based organizations can build specific action plans with a strategic focus on advancing and improving cancer control in Newfoundland and Labrador. The goal of the Framework is to provide key policy directions that will be used to guide cancer control efforts in the province in the coming years: Cancer Prevention Through Promoting a Healthy Population; Identifying Individuals at Risk; Coordinating Care; Supportive and Palliative Care; Clinical Practice Guidelines; Access and Advocacy; Surveillance and Information Systems and Technology; Education and Training; Accountability and Measuring Success.”
On March 29, 2015, the Minister of Health and Community Services provided an update on the Cancer Control Policy Framework. He highlighted several initiatives and achievements. “In 2011, we introduced a ban on smoking in vehicles with a passenger present who is under the age of 16. Between 2013 and 2014 we brought in further changes to more closely regulate tanning bed facilities, to cover the costs of smoking cessation medications for people with low income, and to expand the province’s Colon Cancer Screening Program. The Provincial Government has also made achievements in recent years with respect to diagnosis, treatment and support of those with cancer, as well as their families and support networks. In 2011, we launched the Cancer Patient Navigator Program to provide support to patients and their families by helping them access a variety of medical and community services in a timely and efficient manner. In 2012, we supported the launch of the Cancer Transitions: Moving Beyond Treatment program, which provides invaluable support to cancer survivors and empowers them as they transition from active treatment to post-treatment. Tele-oncology has also seen increased uptake in recent years as cancer specialists have offered patient consultations through Telehealth. And finally, we have made strategic investments in reducing endoscopy wait times and waitlists to ensure residents can more quickly and easily access these diagnostic services. We continue to strive for increased awareness and cancer prevention, while at the same time working as a government to find new ways to mitigate risks and provide timely diagnosis, appropriate treatment and support.”
As the Minister stated in October, “since 2004, our government has allocated over $184 million for cancer programs and services.” This year, we are investing nearly $3 billion in health care: http://www.budget.gov.nl.ca/budget2015/releases/health_wellness.pdf
I encourage everyone to review our health care policies for the term ahead, which are outlined in our Blueprint at /Davis15.ca/ and in our 2015 Budget and Throne Speech at /gov.nl.ca/
Thank you for providing this opportunity to address an issue that is very important to me personally and to every family in Newfoundland and Labrador. Best wishes.
Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador