Thank you for writing to me. Ontario truly is a great province, but often times our healthcare system doesn’t reflect this. The healthcare system in this province is one that has been strained by years of cuts by successive Liberal and Conservative governments and the situation is only getting worse.
With respect to equity in cancer healthcare, the Ontario New Democrats are committed to guaranteeing universal, free access to take-home cancer drugs. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Ontario, and our current system forces patients to jump through hoops to access the latest, most appropriate treatments. And for all too many patients, it means unnecessary hospital visits, and long, stressful waits. It’s time to guarantee universal access to take-home cancer medications, making sure that patients have access to the treatments they need at no out-of-pocket cost.
We will publicly fund take-home cancer medication, so every Ontarian can take the cancer medication they are prescribed. This means universal access to take-home cancer drugs and Ontario will join BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in providing coverage for take-home cancer drugs. All Ontarians prescribed take-home cancer medications without existing private coverage will receive take-home cancer medications with no co-pay or deductible. People with existing private coverage will keep and it will cost $42.5 million annually to ensure no Ontarian pays out of pocket for take-home cancer drugs.
No cancer patient will have to pay out of pocket for cancer medication, as the cost of take-home cancer drugs can be as high as $126,000 per year for patients using standard doses. This will mean every Ontarians has access to take-home cancer drugs. Almost 50 per cent of cancer patients are prescribed take-home cancer drugs and this is expected to increase because 60 per cent of all new cancer drug treatments are oral drugs. Patients will also no longer experience the stress of long delays while they wait for the approval of their Trillium application.
When it comes to our overall healthcare system, for years, Conservative and Liberal governments have been chipping away at our public health care. Now, it’s harder for our families and loved ones to access good health care in Ontario. Hospital budgets were frozen by the Liberals for four straight years since Premier Wynne became Premier (each year between 2012 and 2015). In 2017-18, funding for hospitals fell more than $300 million short of what was needed just to stop the crisis from getting any worse. As a result, hallway medicine has become the new normal inside Ontario’s hospitals. Across the province, nearly 60 percent of medicine wards at large community hospitals are reporting occupancy rates over the internationally-accepted safe standard (85 per cent).
Premier Wynne’s deep cuts to hospitals have led to thousands of layoffs of frontline health care workers. Over 1,600 nursing positions have been cut since the start of 2015, as well as hundreds of health care workers. Lack of funding is forcing surgeries to be deferred and operating rooms to go unused. Beyond this, Premier Wynne’s underfunding of our healthcare system has led to the accumulation of a $3.2 billion capital repair backlog for our hospitals, who have been forced to defer maintenance for years.
Doug Ford and the Conservatives have failed to articulate a comprehensive vision for rebuilding Ontario’s healthcare system and it was the last Conservative government under Mike Harris which fired 6,000 nurses, closed 28 hospitals and slashed over 7,000 hospital beds. More cuts is the last thing that health care needs.
Today, our healthcare system truly is at a tipping point. Years of Liberal-Conservative cuts have taken a significant toll, but ultimately, it doesn’t have to be this way – we can change health care for the better! Andrea Horwath and Ontario’s New Democrats have a plan to end hallway medicine, invest in Ontario’s hospitals, lower wait times, and protect the health care that all of our families are counting on.
Andrea Horwath is the only leader with a plan to end hallway medicine inside Ontario’s hospitals, introduce universal Pharmacare for everyone, build the best home care services in the entire country, and fix the crisis in seniors care. We will restore hospital funding and make sure that it always keeps up with inflation, population growth, aging, and the unique needs of our communities, like the needs of rural hospitals.
An NDP Government will place a moratorium on any further layoffs of nurses and health care workers – and we’ll bring health care partners together to complete a comprehensive review of staffing needs. We will immediately take steps to end overcrowding by funding 2,000 new hospital beds – and we’ll complete a comprehensive capacity plan to that our hospitals have the capacity that this growing province needs.
In addition, Our plan invests more than $1.2 billion in hospital operations this year alone. And takes longer term steps to make sure hospitals have the funding, staffing, and capacity they need to end hallway medicine. We will also invest at least $19 billion dollars over the next 10 years in hospital capital expansions and the new hospitals that our growing province needs. We are also committed to creating 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years — rising to 40,000 new beds by 2028.
Ontario New Democrats will continue to fight for a better healthcare system for all Ontarians and are committed to ensuring that people will be able to start their cancer treatments sooner with less worry. Thank you again for taking the time to write to us.
MPP Candidate for Scarborough Southwest
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, https://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.
- If elected to government, how will you ensure that cancer survivors have timely access to rehabilitation services in Ontario that are timely and free?
- 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:
- All cancer patients in Ontario receive timely access to the medications they need when they need them?
- 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.
Canadian Cancer Survivor Network