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Cancer patients will have faster access to radiation treatment

May 15, 2023 at 3:31 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

To ensure people have faster access to life-saving radiation treatment, BC Cancer is taking action with measures that reduce wait times and increase capacity into the future.

“Health care in B.C. has always been about one key commitment: getting patients the care they need, when they need it,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “To ensure every effort is being made to get cancer patients the treatment they need, we are temporarily referring patients to clinics across the border. This immediate action will support patients while we expand cancer services and hire more cancer care staff throughout the province.” 

To support B.C.’s cancer plan and reduce wait times for radiation treatment, starting May 29, 2023, BC Cancer is temporarily offering eligible patients radiation treatment at one of two clinics in Bellingham, Wash. This will launch a temporary initiative outside the province that could support as many as 50 additional radiation patients each week.

“Timely radiation therapy treatment is critical for people with cancer, both for their survival and overall quality of life,” said Dr. Kim Chi, chief medical officer, BC Cancer. “Through this temporary initiative, we can take urgent action to improve outcomes, not only for those who are able to travel but also for people with cancer receiving care at our regional centres. The initiative increases our overall capacity to deliver vital radiation therapy for every British Columbian who needs it.”

Over the next two years, approximately 4,800 patients will benefit from this temporary program, representing approximately 2,400 patients per year. This would provide approximately 24,000 sessions of radiation treatment over the course of the program, or 12,000 session per year.

During the same time, B.C. is expecting to see approximately 1,000 new patients requiring radiation treatment. By adding capacity for an estimated 4,800 more patients over the next two years, B.C. is taking action to ensure more people receive their radiation treatment by clinical benchmark. These efforts will help B.C. meet growing demand while creating redundancy to replace equipment and position the province to keep up with demand into the future.

Through BC Cancer and the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), eligible patients will have all costs related to their treatment covered, including travel, meals and accommodation. As a temporary addition to the public health-care system, all costs for medical services, testing and medication related to the patient’s radiation treatment, prescription medications and laboratory testing will be covered by the Province.

“We are incredibly grateful to BC Cancer physicians and staff for their unwavering commitment to patient care in the midst of increased patient loads,” said Dr. David Byres, president and CEO, Provincial Health Services Authority. “This temporary measure will support those facing cancer while we continue our efforts to recruit specialized clinical and support staff, upgrade our infrastructure, and work with our health authority partners to deliver on the priorities in B.C.’s 10-year cancer action plan.”

A BC Cancer support team will help patients by arranging appointments, co-ordinating travel plans and greeting them when they return to their regional BC Cancer centre.

“Being diagnosed with cancer can be overwhelming. We appreciate that travelling for treatment can cause added stress at a difficult time, both for people with cancer and those who care for them.” said Heather Findlay, chief operating officer, BC Cancer. “Our care teams are committed to support patients through every stage of their cancer journey and will ensure their travel is as smooth as possible by supporting with planning and logistics for two people, allowing our patients to bring a loved one with them.”

The Province will continue expanding cancer care through B.C.’s Cancer Care Action Plan to better prevent, detect and treat cancers today, and to meet growing future demand. Through investments in research, technology and innovation, the Province is strengthening cancer care in B.C. and delivering more innovative, evidence-based care for people when and where they need it.

To increase capacity and keep up with demand into the future, the Province is adding more cancer centres across B.C., upgrading existing hospital space through renovation and expansion, including the addition of net new diagnostic imaging equipment, and hiring new physicians and clinical support staff through B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy.

Learn More:

To learn more about B.C.’s cancer plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HLTH0012-000229

To learn more about B.C.’s health human resource plan, visit: https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/health-care/  

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