Thank you for writing to me and raising these important questions. My answers follow!
Question 1: Recovery from COVID-19 disruption of cancer care in Ontario
a) Will your government increase cancer screening and treatment capacity by a minimum of 10 per cent over pre-pandemic levels starting in 2022 and continue for a period of three years?
b) Will your government prioritize cancer surgeries to end the surgery backlog in 2022?
c) Recognizing that the postponement of cancer services causes a healthcare crisis, how will your government ensure the continuation of cancer screening, surgeries, and treatment?
Question 2: The expansion of lung cancer screening
If elected, will your government:
a) Improve access to lung cancer screening by adding new sites in Peel, southwestern Ontario, eastern Ontario, and northern Ontario to eliminate barriers to care?
b) Expand access to lung cancer screening for those who are at risk individuals who do not currently or have never smoked, specifically including those who are determined to have incidental pulmonary nodules?
c) Create and fund an awareness program that will encourage people to get screened for lung cancer and help reduce the stigma associated with the disease?
Please allow me to respond to the specific parts of these important questions with a statement of our comprehensive plan! As a caregiver in the healthcare system (I am a Registered Nurse), and having worked on the front lines throughout, the pandemic I am acutely aware of the urgent need for reinvestment in, and strengthening of, Ontario’s healthcare system. I have been appalled by the inadequate preparedness of our healthcare system to address the needs of the people of Ontario, especially during the pandemic. Healthcare has been neglected by consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments. Ontarians should not be suffering in pain, waiting in long queues for life-saving surgeries!
Ontario needs more doctors and nurses to reduce the waiting times for surgeries. The ONDP will address this need as an urgent priority. An NDP government will invest in our healthcare to make sure that people who require a surgery will get it on time.
The NDP government will rebuild Ontario cancer care for the better! We’ll tackle the backlog head-on; we will improve care both in and out of hospital; we will improve screening (with a special focus on hard-to-reach communities), and we will deliver care closer to home. We will expand operating room hours over the evenings and weekends to increase hospital capacity. We will start a healthcare worker hiring blitz. We will create a centralized surgical referral system. And we’ll make sure that all of this gets done without privatizing our healthcare system!
We commit to provide cancer treatment closer to home. We’ll ensure communities have access to comprehensive cancer treatment near where they live, so that no-one has to travel a long way to get essential care such as radiation treatment.
Our plan to improve cancer care includes a new CancerCentre in Brampton and improved capacity for diagnostic imaging across the province.
An ONDP government will make take-home cancer drugs free of charge to patients: our pharmacare plan will cover the full cost of take-home cancer drugs, ensuring no one pays out of pocket.
We will properly fund public health education and prevention programs, including screenings and tests to increase our resilience against cancer.
We will also ensure that future pandemic planning incorporates a plan to sustain cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment through any public health emergency.
If elected to government, will your party allow women to self-refer for a mammogram, starting at age 40?
Yes! It is vital for Ontario to have a healthcare system that prioritizes preventing severe illnesses.
An ONDP government will support self-referral of women over 40 for mammograms. This will make cancer care more equitable and it will also make the resources of our public healthcare network better utilized, by reducing the number of severe breast cancer cases.
Thank you again for allowing me to tell you about our cancer-care plans.