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B.C. announces 10-year plan, $440M investment in cancer care

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The B.C. government has announced a new 10-year plan to expand cancer care as the province's population continues to grow and age.

“Our commitment remains to ensure everyone in B.C. gets the care and support they need when they receive that difficult diagnosis,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix at a news conference with Premier David Eby on Friday.

The province will make a $440-million investment that will go towards improving cancer care, as well as research. It’s money that cancer patient Laura Malo hopes will speed up the process in getting her an appointment with an oncologist.

"Yes you had four tumours, yes you have pre-cancer cells, but you know what, you could wait up to 11 months before we start ringing alarm bells, and I went ‘you’ve got be kidding me,’” said Malo describing her conversation with a nurse last fall.

Malo thought she was cancer free nine years ago, but last year she was diagnosed once again.

"It's really hard. It came back, it wasn't supposed to,” she said.

She had surgery in September to remove four tumours after being told she had hormone cancer.

Her next step is to wait for an appointment with an oncologist to be prescribed life-saving medication.

“You’re giving me a death sentence by making me wait,” she said. “I have a good support system with my husband and my family and my friends, but I get nothing, absolutely nothing, from our health system and I'm not the only one."

 "It’s unacceptable to be in a situation in our province where someone is waiting for screening or waiting for treatment to the point where it's compromising their cancer care,” said premier Eby during the news conference.

The new plan will roll out in three phases.

Eby said $270 million will be used to expand the hours for cancer care to allow for faster access to screening, treatment, and radiation appointments.

The funding will also be used to introduce revised pay structures for oncologists and cancer-care professionals, as well as Indigenous support positions, and additional supports for patients who need to travel from rural communities for care.

Eby said $170 million of the investment will go towards the BC Cancer Foundation to provide research grants, more clinical trials and new treatments.

“It’s investments like these that will have long-lasting impacts for British Columbians,” said Eby.

According to the province, one in two British Columbians will be faced with a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.

Kim Chi the Chief Medical Officer for BC Cancer said the goal is that 90 per cent of people are seen by their oncologist within four weeks of their referral.

For chemotherapy, the target is that 90 per cent of patients will receive the treatment within two weeks, and radiations within four weeks.

According to radiologist Dr. Paula Gordon, the targets are bold.

"There's not enough places that do the procedure there's not enough individuals, there's not enough professionals who do the procedure so the waiting lists are intolerably long right now,” said Dr. Gordon.

The wait for biopsy appointments in her office are backlogged, she added.

"We do save spots for the really urgent cases but otherwise we're booking at the end of April and early May," she said.

In 2021, more than 30,000 people in B.C. were newly diagnosed with cancer and more than 11,000 died from the disease.

“In the coming months, we will build off this investment with additional funding to support our goals and to deliver care,” Eby added.

The province said the 10-year plan will focus on 70 key actions, which including recruiting, training and retaining health-care workers.

Since 2017, the province said, it has invested over $1 billion to strengthen cancer care.

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