Wait list to get onto a waitlist for cancer care in B.C.

Long wait for cancer care

Did you know there is a waitlist to get onto the waitlist if you may have cancer?

Before you see an oncologist, you have to wait. This is waitlist one. But once you have seen the oncologist, you will go onto the second waitlist, where you will wait for treatment.

On this second list, only 75% of British Columbians are treated within the benchmark timeframes.

But it’s bad everywhere, right? Not so. Ninety-seven per cent of Canadians are treated in other provinces within those prescribed timeframes, taking B.C. to the worst outcomes in Canada.

A decade ago, British Columbia lead the pack, boasting the best cancer care outcomes across the country.

Fast forward to today and it's a shocking reversal. We’ve plummeted to dead last.

The culprit? A lack of investment in capacity with not enough specialists or equipment, a lack of investment in research and an exploding population resulting in a tsunami of cancer.

But this was known, with the B.C. Cancer Agency sounding the alarm bell for the last eight years, producing two different 10-year plans, which were only adopted a year ago – seven years after receiving it.

This lack of resourcing has resulted in a convoluted system where cancer patients are forced onto a waitlist just to make it onto the real waitlist for treatment. It's more than a bureaucratic SNAFU, it's a direct threat to the lives of British Columbians, potentially costing precious lives as we speak.

Don’t get me wrong, the frontline workers in B.C. cancer care are extraordinary. They literally work to exhaustion trying to make sure that all are seen. But they are under-resourced and see the cracks in the system that allow people to fall through.

B.C.’s fall from first to last is not because of our frontline workers, it is because the government hasn’t invested in a better system. The investments made are too little, too late and not enough to fund the comprehensive plan.

This fall in outcomes isn’t just inefficiency at work, it's a harrowing strategy that denies our community the care people desperately need. It's an alarming revelation that exposes how the NDP government's handling of the situation might be more about manipulating statistics than delivering real, life-saving solutions. The waitlist for the waitlist isn't just a queue, it's a chilling barrier to survival.

I have heard the stories 43-year-old mothers being not getting a phone call to book with an oncologist in time to save their lives, of people who have chosen Medical Assistance In Dying because they didn’t get treatment in time and of people being told that they are terminal, only to go to the U.S. for surgery and treatment leaving them cancer free.

It's time to call out this grim tactic for what it is—a life-or-death game of numbers that's failing British Columbians.

The government's strategy to keep the waitlist numbers low by creating an additional layer of waiting is a stark betrayal of public trust. We must demand transparency, accountability, and, most importantly, action to dismantle this life-threatening queue.

Let's not mince words—BC's fall from grace in cancer care is unacceptable. This is a wake-up call for immediate, decisive action to revamp our approach to cancer treatment. We need to cut through the red tape, invest in our healthcare infrastructure and adopt innovative solutions to ensure no one is left waiting for the care they need.

It's a battle we can't afford to lose, for the sake of every British Columbian facing this daunting challenge. Together, we can turn the tide and reclaim our place at the forefront of cancer care in Canada.

Let's make waiting lists a thing of the past and give our citizens the fighting chance they deserve.

My question to you is this:

What steps should the government take to improve cancer care in BC?

I love hearing from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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