Open Letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott

January 10, 2022

The Honourable Christine Elliott
Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
Ministry of Health
777 Bay Street, 5th Floor
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister Elliott:

The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) is very concerned that the province of Ontario has instructed hospitals to “pause ‘non-emergent and non-urgent’ procedures and surgeries until at least January 26, 2022.”[1] These procedures and surgeries include surgery and other procedures for cancer.

The disheartening results of CCSN’s three Leger surveys conducted during the first three waves of COVID-19 have shown that the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian cancer patients has been severe and have led to a second public health crisis.

For example, over four in 10 patients, seven in 10 caregivers, and nearly six in 10 waiting to find out whether they have cancer or not had appointments cancelled or rescheduled during the pandemic. Three in ten caregivers, seven per cent of patients, and 18 per cent of those awaiting a diagnosis have had a surgery or other procedure cancelled. Of those who have had procedures cancelled, more than one in four patients, nearly one in three caregivers, and more than one in two of those waiting for a diagnosis were still waiting for their procedure to be rescheduled. On average, patients waited 55 days until they had a new date for their procedure, while caregivers waited an average of 36 days.

But cancer can’t wait! It cannot be postponed or cancelled! The pandemic cannot continue to delay diagnostic testing, treatments, and care that will help save cancer patients’ lives. As COVID-19 continues, so too must cancer care.

The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network calls on the Ontario Ministry of Health not to wait until the pandemic is declared over to invest in strengthening cancer care. Cancer can’t wait for those who are unsure of a cancer diagnosis and for those whose cancer may have progressed to a later stage during the pandemic.  Policy makers and hospital administrators across Canada must help to avoid what may already be an unavoidable increase in the number of deaths from cancer.

Yours sincerely,

Jackie Manthorne

President and CEO


CC:       MPP France Gélinas, NDP Health Critic,
MPP John Fraser, Liberal Party Health Critic,
MPP Robin Martin, Parliamentary Assistant,
Premier Doug Ford,

[1] The Ottawa Citizen, “Cancer is not going to wait: Patients frustrated as surgeries postponed due to COVID-19 overload.” January 6, 2022.