NDP provides no clarity on access to cancer care in rural B.C.

NDP provides no clarity on access to cancer care in rural B.C.

VICTORIA (May 17, 2023) – As government makes the shocking announcement that it will be sending thousands of cancer patients to private U.S. clinics for treatment, rural British Columbians are once again left in the dark about what access they will have to life-saving care.

“Rural B.C. is always an afterthought for this NDP government — especially when it comes to health care,” said Tom Shypitka, BC United MLA for Kootenay East. “NDP Health Minister Adrian Dix recently made the stunning announcement that his government will begin sending certain patients to Washington state for radiation therapy, but there is no clarity around what this will mean for rural British Columbians. We don’t know what this program will look like for those who live hours away from their regional cancer centre or whether they will be compensated for travel to and from that centre. Waiting for cancer treatment is always a stressful experience, but the government’s announcement has prompted more questions than answers, adding to people’s concern and anxiety.”

Under David Eby and his NDP government, cancer care wait times in B.C. are amongst the worst in the country by multiple key measures, including: only 20 per cent of cancer patients referred to an oncologist are seen within the recommended two weeks, compared to 75 per cent in Ontario. Additionally, the mean wait time for a first consultation with an oncologist has increased to 43 days, a 43 per cent increase in the first few months of 2023.

“No matter where you live in B.C., you deserve equal access to cancer care. Unfortunately, that is not always that reality for British Columbians who live outside large urban centres,” said Doug Clovechok, BC United MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke. “While it’s encouraging to see government taking dramatic steps to get people the treatment they need, it’s distressing they’ve let the situation get this dire. It’s also confusing for people — including some of my constituents — who have been denied access to cancer care in Alberta because this government won’t cover out-of-province treatment. Why is the NDP comfortable sending British Columbians to get care in another country when they won’t let them get treatment in a neighbouring province, which is often much closer than the nearest B.C. cancer centre? People deserve clarity from this government and assurances they will get the care they desperately need.”