Open Letter to Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman and Response

January 13, 2022

The Honourable Paul Merriman
Minister of Health
Room 204, Legislative Building
2405 Legislative Drive
Regina, SK S4S 0B3

Dear Minister Merriman:

Premier Moe stated in December 2021 that the government was aware that delays in surgeries and other procedures have taken a heavy toll on the quality of life of Saskatchewan patients, and that an effort would be made to schedule an increasing number of delayed procedures. However, the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network is concerned that the ongoing pandemic, especially Omicron, will cause yet another round of cancellations and postponements in cancer care.

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 has 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 government of Saskatchewan 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:       Vicki Mowat, NDP Health Critic,
            The Honourable Scott Moe, Premier,


Response from Minister Merriman


Feb. 9, 2022

Jackie Manthorne
President and CEO
Canadian Cancer Survivor Network


Dear Jackie:

Thank your for your email of January 13, 2022, regarding access to cancer care and cancer diagnosis during the COVID-19 pandemic. I appreciate being informed of the views of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network about these matters.

As you may be aware, the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency (SCA) is responsible for cancer screening and treatment programs in the province. Despite the many challenges presented by the pandemic, the SCA continues to prioritize cancer treatments and has ensured  that chemotherapy and radiation treatments have remained available throughout the pandemic.

Some diagnostic and surgical services were slowed down during the initial onset of the pandemic in March 2020; however, all urgent and emergency treatments continued to be performed. I can also confirm that there is no intent or plans to slow down any cancer screening or treatment programs during future waves of the pandemic.

Providing high quality cancer care to Saskatchewan residents is a priority for our government and the SCA. We are strengthening cancer control services with funding in 2021-22 of more than $204 million to the SCA, which represents an increase of $7.6 million over the previous year.

Please know that we will continue to support the SCA to ensure that Saskatchewan residents have timely access to cancer care. Again, thank you for writing about this important health-care matter.


Paul Merriman
Minister of Health