Tar­gets for cancer biop­sies not be­ing met: au­di­tor

Re­port says only 46 per cent were di­ag­nosed within 14-day min­istry tar­get

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - SHAWN JEFFORDS

TORONTO — Long wait times for cancer biop­sies, un­der­use of ra­di­a­tion therapy and mil­lions of dol­lars paid to U.S. hos­pi­tals for stem cell trans­plants are some of the health­care is­sues high­lighted in a re­port by On­tario’s au­di­tor gen­eral.

The re­port, re­leased Wed­nes­day, looked at On­tario’s $1.6-bil­lion an­nual cancer care sys­tem, con­clud­ing that while most pa­tients are well-served, long waits for cer­tain pro­ce­dures and in­ef­fi­cien­cies re­lated to oth­ers re­main in some ar­eas of care.

“Our au­dit of cancer treat­ment ser­vices found that On­tar­i­ans needs were not fully be­ing met in the ar­eas of ra­di­a­tion treat­ment ... scans and wait times for some ur­gent cancer surg­eries and di­ag­nos­tic ser­vices,” Au­di­tor Gen­eral Bon­nie Lysyk said.

The au­dit found that only 46 per cent of key biop­sies to di­ag­nose cancer are per­formed within the Min­istry of Health’s 14-day tar­get. It also found that a pro­vin­cial tar­get to pro­vide ra­di­a­tion therapy in 48 per cent of cancer cases has not been met, with only 39 per cent of

pa­tients re­ceiv­ing the treat­ment in 2015-2016. The re­port also noted that the govern­ment is spend­ing mil­lions to send cancer pa­tients to the United States for stem cell trans­plants be­cause of lim­ited ca­pac­ity to per­form the pro­ce­dure in On­tario. The cost to send a patent out of prov­ince for the treat­ment is $660,000 com­pared to $128,000 on av­er­age in the prov­ince. The Min­istry of Health paid $35 mil­lion to U.S. hos­pi­tals to per­form the trans­plants on 53 pa­tients be­tween Oc­to­ber 2015 and June 2017. Pro­jec­tions call for an­other 106 pa­tients to be sent to the U.S. for trans­plants from July 2017 to the end of 2020-2021. Only in 20162017 did the prov­ince ap­prove cap­i­tal projects to ex­pand stem cell trans­plants in On­tario. Ear­lier plan­ning could have mit­i­gated many of those dif­fi­cul­ties, Lysyk said.

“The prov­ince’s lim­ited ca­pac­ity to per­form stem cell trans­plants was first iden­ti­fied as an is­sue in 2009,” she said. “In the next six years, this is­sue led to ex­ces­sive wait times and costly out-of-coun­try pro­ce­dures.”

Health Min­is­ter Eric Hoskins said the prov­ince spent $31 mil­lion this year to bol­ster the health sys­tem’s abil­ity to pro­vide stem cell trans­plants for pa­tients at home.

“We’ve changed the fund­ing for­mula so I think we rec­og­nize more ac­cu­rately the type of ef­fort that goes into sup­port­ing an in­di­vid­ual and a fam­ily that faces this chal­lenge in life,” he said.

The re­port also says the full cost of cancer drugs is not cov­ered for pa­tients if they are not ad­min­is­tered in hospi­tal. In Bri­tish Columbia, Al­berta, Saskatchewan and Man­i­toba such drug cov­er­age is pro­vided re­gard­less of where the drugs are taken.

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