Kathryn McGarry (Liberal Party) Response

Response: 

Thank you for reaching out to me, as a nurse, I have seen firsthand how imperative access to quality, and affordable healthcare is to the well-being and recovery for a person with cancer.

Ontario Liberals have a strong track record of investing in health care services in the community. Our plan will invest in more rehabilitation services for cancer survivors.

Cancer rehabilitation in the form of occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech language pathology are available across cancer centres, with additional services made available in some regions specific to cancer.

Patients may access services through home and community care if they are eligible and this is managed through the LHINs. We will work with groups such as the Cancer Survivor Network to continue to ensure that these services meet the needs of cancer 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.

I was proud to announce OHIP+ program, so that prescription drugs are free for everyone under 25 in Ontario. Over 4 million free prescriptions have already been filled since the introduction of it in January, 2018.

Also, beginning in August 2019, all seniors, 65 and older will have access to prescription drugs, no fees…no co-pay…no deductible.

We will work to get to national pharmacare, because that is the best way forward. But irrespective of whether we get to full national pharmacare, we will not stop until all Ontarians are covered.

We recognize all of the leadership that cancer patient groups have played in championing the need for affordable and accessible drug programs. We are committed to ensuring that all patients, including cancer patients, have access to the medications they need to be healthy.

The 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.

Ontario also funds injectable cancer drugs in outpatient settings through the New Drug Funding Program (NDFP).

We have increased funding for oral cancer drugs by 25% last year bringing the total spend to $467 million. The NDP’s plan proposes an increase of 9% for take home cancer drugs.

Ontario is a leader in cancer care, and we have a system that has the best survival rates for prostate, breast, colorectal and lung cancers in Canada,

We know that cancer survivors can experience challenges accessing the care they need to support their recovery and healing process. Ontario Liberals are committed to changing that. We

are also committed to further expansion of pharmacare and ensuring access to medication is not a barrier for patients when transitioning from hospital to home.

Working with patients and people with lived experience, we will advance the continuum of patient care available so that there are more supports and health survivors available for cancer survivors, including those struggling with lymphedema.

Ontario Liberals are responsible for a comprehensive cancer screening program. We launched the Cancer Screening Program and it is saving lives. It is imperative that Ontarians get screened for cancer, and we have worked hard to expand screening services and availability across the province.

We are committed to working with clinicians and patient groups to ensure our cancer screening is evidence-based and protecting Ontarians.

Regards,

Kathryn McGarry

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