Brenda Rhodes (Liberal Party) Response

Response: 

Hello Jackie,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me. Ontario is a leader in cancer care as a result of the investments Ontario Liberals have made and the programs and services we have created. We have a system that has the best survival rates for prostate, breast, colorectal and lung cancers in Canada. Among our achievements are:
  • We have increased funding for stem cell transplants over the last four years by 600%
  • We launched Canada’s first province-wide colorectal cancer screening program, to combat the second deadliest form of cancer in the country
  • We integrated screening reminders for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer into one coordinated system
  • We expanded our publicly-funded HPV vaccine program to include boys to help protect more youth from human papillomavirus infection and related cancers

Our plan will invest an additional $822 to hospital operating funding — $92 million dedicated to targeted investments to improve access and reduce wait times for specific hospital procedures, including chemotherapy and cancer surgery. Working with patients and people with lived experience Ontario Liberals will advance the continuum of patient care available so that there are more supports and health services available for cancer patients and survivors. Our plan is also investing in over $650 million for more home care hours and expanded services and it includes a historic investment of $2.1 billion for mental health which includes access to publicly-funded psychotherapy.   

This is a very personal cause for me since my father has been balling colon cancer for years. I would most definitely like to be part of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network’s All-party Cancer Caucus if elected.

The Liberal Party is committed to ensuring that all patients, including cancer patients, have access to the medications they need to be healthy.Ontario Liberals historic expansion of medicare means all children and youth under 25 currently have access to free oral cancer drugs. Starting in August 2019 all seniors over 65 will also have access to oral cancer drugs listed on the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary completely free. The ODB program already covers many take-home cancer drugs for eligible recipients, including oral chemotherapy. Since 2015, 89 per cent of those requiring cancer drugs have been covered, including seniors, residents of long-term care homes and recipients of social assistance. In the last five years, we have funded an additional an additional 70 cancer drugs. Ontario also funds injectable cancer drugs in outpatient settings through the New Drug Funding Program (NDFP). We recognize the importance of access to medication as we have demonstrated with our commitment to pharmacare through the creation of OHIP+ and will be expanding it to include seniors. Ontario Liberals are committed to ensuring that everyone regardless of age or disease have access to the medications they need. Ontario Liberals increased funding for oral cancer drugs by 25% last year bringing the total spend to $467 million. The NDPs plan proposes an increase of 9% for take home cancer drugs. Ontario Liberals are committed to further expansion of pharmacare and ensuring access to medication is not a barrier for patients when transitioning from hospital to home. As in free screening for breast cancer I do support free PSA screening for men.

I hope I have answered your questions but please feel free to contact me again.  Thank you again for reaching out as this is a topic near and dear to me.

Brenda Rhodes

Ontario Liberal candidate for Parry Sound–Muskoka

Questions: 

Over 200,000 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer and 80,000 will die from it every year. During their lifetime, nearly 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer, and 1 in 4 will die from the disease. This includes 80,700 new cases and 29,600 deaths in Ontario. 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 Ontario 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. And according to a February 2018 Ipsos poll, healthcare is again the top issue during this campaign, with 40 per cent of respondents singling it out.

We invite you to respond to the following questions related to cancer care and healthcare in Ontario. Your responses will be circulated to cancer patients and survivors in Ontario and included on our website, http://survivornet.ca/act/ccsn-election-campaigns/, and posted on our social media.

Question 1: Rehabilitation for cancer survivors

About 500,000 Ontarians have survived cancer for ten years or longer. But surviving cancer can leave a host of problems in its wake. Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment.  The Auditor General’s 2017 Report states that: “Psychosocial cancer services are insufficient and inconsistent…As many as 40% of cancer patients require help from specialized professionals in addition to their medical treatment… we noted that in 2016/17, only 5.8% of patients received consultations with dietitians, and only 6.6% with social workers. More than half of the 14 regional cancer centres did not have a dedicated psychiatrist, occupational therapist, psychologist, or physiotherapist on site.”

While advances in cancer detection and treatments have reduced mortality, persistent and late effects of cancer and its treatments need to be identified and managed lifelong, with rehabilitation programs filling a gap in survivorship care and responding to the need of some survivors for more specialized physical and mental recovery care.

  1. If elected to government, how will you ensure that cancer survivors have timely access to rehabilitation services in Ontario that are timely and free?
  2. If elected as an MPP, would you be interested in serving on the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network’s All-party Cancer Caucus which meets twice a year at Queen’s Park and is currently studying gaps in rehabilitation services in Ontario and how to fill them?

Question 2: Timely access to medications

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 Ontario, where the cost of oral drugs is not covered.

If elected to government, will you commit to ensuring that:

  1. All cancer patients in Ontario receive timely access to the medications they need when they need them?
  2. The cost of oral cancer drugs is covered?

Question 3: Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a chronic health condition with many faces. Some people are born with it, while others develop it later in life, often after treatment for some cancers. An estimated one million Canadians suffer with this progressive condition that can have lifelong physical, emotional and financial implications for patients and their families. Approximately 387,000 Ontarians are living with lymphedema, with up to one in four breast cancer survivors developing lymphedema at some point in their lives.

If elected to government, will you commit to ensuring that cancer patients and survivors and other Ontarians with lymphedema receive timely and free treatment for this health condition?

Question 4: PSA Screening in Ontario

Is your party in favour of implementing free PSA testing for prostate cancer in Ontario as a population-wide screening tool?

If not, please explain how your party would ensure that Ontario men will have access to early diagnosis of prostate cancer.

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Yours sincerely,

Canadian Cancer Survivor Network