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'This is not right': B.C. cancer patient's chemo treatment delayed because of staff shortages


Every time Toby Clearly gets chemotherapy, he knows it’s going to take a significant physical toll on him.

“The side effects are pretty tough,” Clearly said. “The muscle fatigue is unbelievable.”

But the 52-year-old Maple Ridge, B.C., man knows the treatment is crucial as he battles cancer.

“According to the scans and my blood work, the chemotherapy is working and I don’t want it to stop working. I don’t want to get a delay and for stuff to start growing again,” he explained.

That’s why he was stunned to receive a call saying his eighth round of chemo at the Abbotsford Cancer Centre was postponed this week because of staffing shortages.

“I thought this is not right, this is not right,” he said.

The troubling delay comes after being diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer earlier this year, then being unable to get an oncologist appointment for more than a month.

“It was pretty terrifying for me and my family, nobody knowing really what’s going on,” he recalled.

He said the nurses and doctors caring for him are doing all they can, but are overworked and understaffed.

“They’re burnt out. They’re overrun,” Clearly said. “The government has to step in somewhere and figure out what to do about the staffing shortage.”

The BC Nurses’ Union couldn’t agree more.

“It is a crisis and it’s existing everywhere,” said Adriane Gear, vice-president of the BCNU. “It’s not just in emergency rooms. It’s not just in ICU’s. It’s everywhere.”

Gear said the problems with staffing shortages began long before the pandemic.

“We need government to take every step possible to recruit more nurses from other jurisdictions,” she said.

The province is “losing nurses every day because the working conditions are just so difficult. and it’s not just the working conditions, it’s the moral distress,” Gear added.

CTV News requested an interview with Health Minister Adrian Dix, but was told instead to contact Provincial Health Services Association, which oversees BC Cancer.

In an email, BC Cancer said it couldn’t discuss specific cases but that it “appreciates the distress that patients and their loved ones face when going through cancer treatment. We regret that this patient was given the impression that their care is not a priority.”

The email stated that staffing levels can fluctuate for reasons that included vacations and illness.

“Due to the complexity of care required, treatments are sometimes postponed for patients,” it said. “We endeavour to reschedule these patients as soon as possible and thank them for their patience and understanding.”

Clearly is still waiting to be rescheduled, frustrated the treatment he desperately needs is on hold.

“Something really needs to be done. People are going to die because of this, because of the delays,” he said. Top Stories

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