Dear Ms. Manthorne,
Thank you for reaching out on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) – and by extension, cancer patients and survivors as well as their families and friends who have also been affected. We also thank you for the important work your network is doing in advocating for the highest standard of care, support, follow up, and quality of life for cancer patients and survivors. The reality is that more Ontarians are living with cancer than ever before, with an estimated 86,000 new diagnoses each year. The good news is that therapies and outcomes are improving every day. Although cancer is still the leading cause of death in Ontario, the chances of survival are increasing with every new medical advancement. Too often, however, we are not making the most of those advances. For example, innovative new therapies allow cancer patients to take medication orally at home, instead of having to visit the hospital for lengthy IV treatments. Unfortunately, unlike in-hospital IV treatments, the cost of the oral medication is not covered. It doesn’t have to be this way. Every patient battling cancer deserves to know their government is completely behind them in their fight. New Democrats strongly believe that everyone diagnosed with cancer should have timely access to cancer care and essential medical services as well as access to emergency rooms and the treatment and medications they need. Andrea Horwath and the NDP will publicly fund take-home cancer medication. We will also remove the stressful application barriers and delays for drug coverage that have plagued the Trillium Drug Program. We will work with Cancer Care Ontario, CCSN, health care professionals, hospitals, and the Canadian Cancer Society, among others, to improve cancer care for all Ontarians and help families navigate the cancer care system. Our investment in Ontario hospitals will help to reduce wait times for biopsies, MRIs, and CT scans. The earlier diagnoses will allow more timely treatment, improving patients’ chances of survival and recovery — and avoiding the costs of treating more advanced cancers. Further, we will reduce regional disparities in access to cancer treatment. No matter where they live, every cancer patient deserves access to the urgent care they need and as close to home as possible. We will increase access to supports for patients and their families, including psychosocial support, symptom-management support, and education about take-home cancer drugs. We will also address the worrisome lack of oversight and patient protection when it comes to cancer drug therapy at private clinics. Additionally, we will develop a provincial strategy for urgently expanding Ontario’s capacity for stem-cell transplants by the third year of our mandate, including streamlining and expediting capital projects. In addition to our plan to guarantee universal, free access to take-home cancer drugs, Andrea Horwath and the NDP have committed to several other historic investments in health care. While the Liberal government’s OHIP+ program has left millions of people without prescription drug coverage, an NDP government will make Ontario the first province with universal pharmacare by 2020 — so every Ontarian can get the medication they need. It will mean lower costs, less worrying, and better health for everyone. Unlike the Liberal government’s plan, nobody will be excluded. Pharmacare will begin with universal coverage for approximately 125 essential medicines – chosen through an independent process led by the Committee to Evaluate Drugs. We will work to expand this list as quickly as possible. Our other health care commitments include providing hospital funding that keeps up with inflation and community needs, including $1.2 billion in immediate investments, and issuing a moratorium on any further layoffs of frontline care workers. New Democrats are committed to doing everything a government can do to relieve the worry patients and families feel after a cancer diagnosis. We will endeavour to give everyone facing a battle with cancer the best fighting chance by making the treatment their doctor prescribes available, and free, no matter when and where they need it. That’s change for the better, and we look forward to getting to work.
Elizabeth Van Houtte
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