Premier Brian Pallister prefaced his announcement of more funds for drugs for cancer patients in Manitoba on Monday with an emotional memory.
“I will always remember the most difficult phone call that I ever received and that’s when my dad (Bill) was diagnosed with cancer and the nurse was a friend of our family, and she was a hardened, experienced human being who had given care to so many families, and she wept with me on the phone,” Pallister said with a tear in his eye.
Bill Pallister died three months later of primary liver cancer.
“These are painful experiences and painful memories, and everything that we can do to alleviate that pain in the lives of our patients, of our friends, of our family members is a wonderful thing,” Pallister said. “Ensuring that cancer patients receive appropriate and affordable care is tremendously important. That is why your new government is allocating an additional $4 million in funding for intravenous cancer drugs in our budget this year.”
That brings the budgeted amount to about $50 million annually.
“Cancer is the leading cause of death in Manitoba and in Canada,” said Dr. Sri Navaratnam, CancerCare Manitoba president and CEO. “It is treated through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Thanks to research, technology, innovation and new chemotherapy drugs, the cure rate is steadily improving.
“In Manitoba, we have eased the financial burden of cancer. We are extremely fortunate that Manitoba patients with cancer are able to receive both intravenous and all of chemotherapy drugs at no cost to them. Not every Canadian with cancer has free oral chemotherapy drugs.”
Ontario and some other provinces do not cover the costs of those drugs, she said.
Pallister also plans to work with other provinces and territories to ensure the long-term affordability of the expensive drugs.
The announcement came less than two months after the NDP had suggested Pallister would cancel the coverage of cancer drugs if he became premier.
“The previous administration was desperate in their latter days, so they resorted to political tactics that are more reminiscent of U.S.-style politics than they were fair-minded or open or honest or in the best interest of Manitobans,” Pallister said.
The NDP did not respond to a request for comment.
While NDP commitments are still under review, Navaratnam does not believe CancerCare’s planned expansion is at risk. The NDP had committed $70 million to the project.