Conservative Party of Newfoundland & Labrador Response

Dear Candidate/Party,

Please respond to these important questions.

Our question is, if elected, what action will your government take to ensure that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are guaranteed safe and timely access to essential cancer care?

Your response will be circulated to cancer patients, caregivers and survivors in Newfoundland and Labrador and included on our website at Links to your responses will also be posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Response from candidate:

“Dear Ms. Manthorne,

Thank you for your correspondence of January 27, 2021. Thank you for outlining how the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health crisis has impacted individuals who have cancer.

I very much agree with your statement that “cancer can’t wait.” Our health care system must support patients with cancer and those who are being screened for cancer while protecting them against the risk of COVID-19. We know all too well that early diagnosis and early treatment is critical in improving outcomes for individuals with cancer. We cannot let COVID-19 get in the way of timely treatment.

Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit our province, I called for the establishment of an all-party committee to serve as a forum where information could be shared about the province’s response, and the concerns of citizens could be brought to the table. Some of the concerns were addressed around that table, but others were not addressed properly.

Our Caucus raised the issue of treatment delays during Question Period in the House of Assembly. Here are some examples of questions we raised:

• DAVID BRAZIL: Minister, many people are suffering because they cannot get the health care they need or they cannot be with a family member when they are in hospital. There are hundreds of heartbreaking stories. The people of the province deserve to know when health care will return to normal. Can the minister table in this House the regional health authority’s plan to address the backlog for specialist appointments, procedures and surgeries due to the cancellation of non-urgent elective health services? (June 10, 2020)

• DAVID BRAZIL: Minister, your department was able to establish guidelines to allow my family pet to have her fur cut weeks ago, but people are still waiting to find out when their appointments will be rescheduled. Once again, will the minister commit to tabling an intensive, detailed plan developed by the regional health authorities to address the backlogs? A simple yes or not – will that be tabled in this House? (June 10, 2020)

• MR. BRAZIL: I can guarantee you the people of Newfoundland and Labrador need some reassurance of when they’re going to get back to some normality around health care, particularly what’s been backlogged that does have a life-or-death impact on families in this province. (June 10, 2020)

• TONY WAKEHAM: We have been told here that the actual return to normality for people on those wait-lists that have been cancelled could take up to 18 months. I ask the minister: Is that true, that it could be up to 18 months before we actually take care of the backlog? If so, what will you do to speed that up? (June 18, 2020)

• CRAIG PARDY: On May 7, I communicated to Health and Community Services about a constituent who was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago. She had surgery and her one-year post mammogram was scheduled for April past but was postponed due to COVID. In addition, a consult with a specialist regarding nodules found on her thyroid was also postponed. Can the minister provide more exact information as to when these backlog
assessments will be addressed? (June 18, 2020)

• JEFF DWYER: Minister, I know of a middle-aged, single dad that has been waiting for the removal of a lump since February. There are concerns that the lump could be cancerous. What assurances can you give that person and his young family as to when he can expect this surgery in a timely manner? (June 18, 2020)

• JIM LESTER: Minister, prior to COVID, we had a health care system in crisis; now it’s in tatters. Many residents in my district have contacted me to raise concerns about wait times for needed prescriptions for rheumatoid arthritis, blood tests and many other progressive medical concerns. These are health requirements that cannot be delayed. What confidence can you give the residents that these time-sensitive services will be fast tracked?

COVID-19 infection is not the only illness putting people’s lives at risk. We cannot allow people whose lives are at risk from cancer or other illnesses to have their care delayed because of the focus on addressing another illness.

A PC Government will minimize disruptions to non-Covid health care so patients can access the care they require in a timely manner. This includes disruptions to cancer care, testing, screening, and preventative procedures.

We believe a proper and timely rollout of the vaccine will make a big difference in rebalancing the system to clear up the backlogs. A PC Government will ensure people get vaccinations in as timely a manner as possible, recognizing that we can alleviate the most suffering by prioritizing delivery to those who are most vulnerable. A PC Government will not lose sight of the importance of remaining vigilant, even as people are being vaccinated, so the infection does not take hold again in our communities. But we must also be vigilant in ensuring people who need cancer care are getting it in a timely manner.

Part of the problem early in the pandemic was a concern that personal protective equipment (PPE) was in short supply. The shocking revelation was that the Liberals had destroyed the province’s stockpile of PPE shortly before the pandemic struck, leaving the province unprepared. That was reckless, as we know there were flu-like virus infections arising from time to time, and ensuring a stockpile of PPE was a reasonable preventative measure. Thanks to Newfoundland and Labrador’s geography and the caring nature of our people, we avoided the worst outcomes of other jurisdictions, but not because the government was prepared. A PC Government will work to increase access to
personal protective equipment. We will ensure there is an adequate warehouse stockpile of PPE available and ready to use for future outbreaks. We believe that an adequate supply of PPE can help us to continue essential services while keeping patients and care providers safe.

I believe that the best way to keep Newfoundlanders and Labradorians safe and to minimize any disruptions is to reduce COVID-19 as much as possible in our province. That is why A PC Government will do point-of-entry testing at our border access points. We have been calling for point-of-entry testing from the start, based on science and best practices. We will be diligent to track down cases of COVID-19 as they come into our province, isolate them, and prevent the spread. The purpose of point-of-entry testing is not to give people a false sense of security, but to catch more cases earlier, before the infection spreads. It is a reasonable precaution. The better protected we are, the more easily our health care system can get back on track.

Thank you once again for giving me the opportunity to outline how I would ensure cancer care continues in our time of pandemic.”


Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador