CCSN Participates in the Canada Healthcare Innovation Summit

Nir Hagigi of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network participated in the 7th panel of the Canada Healthcare Innovation Summit: Unlocking Access to Therapies & Medicines (Left to Right: William Semchuk, Nir Hagigi, Jin-Hyeun Huh, Rute Fernandez, Tijana Fazlagic, Joss Reimer).

On October 12th, 2023, the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network was honoured to participate in the inaugural Canada Healthcare Innovation Summit, organized by Bamberg Health. This remarkable event brought together professionals, experts, and healthcare organizations to engage in meaningful conversations on critical topics. Panels covering everything from the utilization of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence in modern medicine to innovations in pharmaceutical and therapeutic management took the stage.

Among the engaging conversations that unfolded throughout the day, Nir Hagigi, CCSN’s Public Policy Analyst, participated in the seventh panel: ‘Unlocking Access to Therapies & Medicines.’ This discussion revolved around a paramount issue in healthcare – the disparities in access to life-saving therapies and medicines. Hagigi shared this platform with a distinguished group of experts, including Joss Reimer, President-elect of the Canadian Medical Association, who moderated the panel. The panel included William Semchuk, Director of Patient Care & Performance of the Provincial Pharmacy Services in the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Jin-Hyeun Huh, Senior Pharmacy Director of the University Health Network, Rute Fernandez, Group VP & General Manager of Takeda, Canada, and Tijana Fazlagic, Executive Director of the Therapeutic Assessment and Access Branch in the British Columbia Ministry of Health.

Hagigi provided a patient-oriented perspective on the pressing issue of healthcare inequities, specifically in cancer care. During this insightful presentation, he delved into the profound inequities in cancer care that significantly impact the lives of many Canadians. These disparities transcend mere statistics; they affect the quality of care, the well-being of patients and their families, and the overall health of our nation.

During the summit, Hagigi addressed a prominent and pressing concern that affects individuals and families dealing with cancer: the financial toxicity of this disease. The financial burden associated with cancer care is truly immense, affecting individuals and their families both economically and emotionally. It’s a multifaceted challenge that seeps into everyday life and impacts the ability to maintain employment and support families during one of life’s most challenging battles.

Nir Hagigi responding to a question during the panel.

Hagigi’s insights underscored the urgency of implementing comprehensive policy changes and innovative healthcare initiatives to alleviate this significant financial strain. One key proposal focuses on opening more healthcare facilities near underserved communities. Geographic disparities substantially contribute to the financial burden that many patients face, particularly those in remote or underserved regions. Travelling long distances for essential cancer care not only adds to the emotional and physical stress of the illness but also increases costs associated with transportation (such as parking) and accommodation.

In response to these challenges, innovative solutions are being explored, including telemedicine, which offers the potential to connect patients in underserved regions with specialized cancer care regardless of their geographical location. By bridging the gap in access to care, telemedicine has the power to reduce the burden of long-distance travel and ensure that everyone, regardless of where they live, can receive the essential diagnoses, treatments, and support they need.

Hagigi emphasized the need for universal pharmacare during the summit. This policy reform would ensure equitable access to life-saving medications for all Canadians, regardless of their financial circumstances. The financial burden associated with prescription medications and supportive care often adds to the overall cost of cancer care. Universal pharmacare, much like the existing universal healthcare system in Canada, can significantly alleviate this burden, ensuring that cancer survivors and patients receive the necessary treatments without the additional stress of high medication costs. The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network supports these necessary reforms, passionately encouraging a healthcare landscape that provides financial support and comprehensive care to those affected by cancer.

In addition to addressing financial toxicity, Hagigi highlighted the importance of re-evaluating age limits for self-screening in the context of breast and lung cancer. Early detection is an unequivocal game-changer in improving cancer outcomes, and these age limits may inadvertently exclude individuals who would greatly benefit from life-saving screenings.

Hagigi underscored the significance of these age limits during the summit, shedding light on the complexities and implications of such criteria. In Ontario, for instance, to be eligible for lung cancer screening, an individual must be at least 50 years old and no more than 74 years old. This poses potential limitations for individuals that are considered too young or too old, who may be at risk due to various underlying factors, including genetic predisposition or occupational hazards. Furthermore, the requirement that individuals must have been regular smokers for 20 years (at the rate of one cigarette a day) inadvertently excludes those who have been exposed to second-hand smoke or other environmental risk factors – 30% of lung cancer patients have never smoked a cigarette in their lives!

Dr. Joss Reimer asking Hagigi a question during the panel.

Hagigi emphasized a critical point during the summit, one that echoed throughout the discussions and resonated deeply with those in attendance. Whether the topic of conversation revolved around the staggering financial toxicity of cancer care, the glaring inequities in access to crucial screenings, or the profound geographical disparities in healthcare services, there was one unmistakable and urgent message that transcended all these facets of care: Cancer Can’t Wait!

This simple yet powerful statement encapsulates the overarching urgency that surrounds the need for immediate action in the realm of cancer care. It underscores the fact that the financial, accessibility, and geographical barriers faced by individuals battling cancer are not mere inconveniences; they are barriers that can make the difference between life and death. It’s a call to action, a plea to policymakers, healthcare providers, and society at large to prioritize these critical issues, allocate resources where they are needed most, and work tirelessly to ensure that no one is left behind in the fight against cancer.

The summit provided a platform for CCSN to raise crucial issues, inspire change, and promote a patient-oriented approach to healthcare. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, CCSN’s presence at events like the Canada Healthcare Innovation Summit reinforces our role as tireless campaigners for patients and survivors. The ongoing commitment to ensure that the patient’s voice is heard, and meaningful changes are made within the healthcare system reflects our enduring dedication to enhancing the lives of those affected by cancer.