PSA testing for Prostate Cancer
Mr. Klees made the following statement in the legislature:
Ontario Hansard Thursday November 3, 2005
Private Member's Business
I’m concerned that perhaps this government is not serious about this. If it was, it would have taken the direction of this House in June 2005, when it passed this bill for second reading, and it didn’t. At the very least, it could have carried this bill on. Instead, it allowed it to die on the order paper, which means the honourable member has to reintroduce the bill again today and take another morning of debate on this.
I will say, for the benefit and perhaps for the help of the honourable member, that he should encourage his Minister of Health—and I do so through this debate—with the commitment that his Premier made during the last election. I want to read it into the record, and for the benefit of the honourable member, he can take this and show it to the Premier.
This is a letter from the Retired Teachers of Ontario, addressed to Dalton McGuinty, April 8,2005. “On behalf of the political action committee of the Retired Teachers of Ontario ... we are seeking an update on the position of your government related to the funding of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test.
“In November 2002, in your then role as opposition leader, you responded to a similar inquiry ... with the following statement: ‘In light of the fact that physicians are ordering the test because they view it as a medical necessity, the Ontario Liberals believe it should be made available to patients free of charge.’
“As it has almost been a year and a half since your government was formed, our political action committee is anxious to know when you plan to make the PSA test available, free of charge, so we may share this information with our 55,000 members. We hasten to point out that this is indeed a gender equity matter.
“We look forward to your reply at your earliest convenience.”
Signed Helen Biales, president, and James Guerard, chair, political action committee.
I read that into the record because clearly this is another commitment that the Premier made. It has now been more than two years since they have been in office and formed the government, and we still see no action on this. In fact, he’s forcing his member to reintroduce a private member’s bill that was already passed in this House in the last session.
I concur with my colleague who said earlier, “What is this all about?” Why do we have to go through this process? We either believe this is the right thing to do, or we don’t. The House has expressed its view that it is. The Premier made his promise more than four years ago that he would. He’s been Premier for two years plus, and we still don’t have action. I hope this isn’t a charade.
I’m supporting—and I know that my colleagues will support—the honourable member in his well-intentioned presentation of this bill for debate again today. I’m with him. We’re all with you. Now it’s up to the government to act.
There is absolutely no mystery
to what has to be done. The Minister of Health simply has to take this
forward to cabinet and say, “This is what we’re going to do.”
We don’t have to go through committee. We don’t have to go
through any further debate, any more procedure. I call on the government
to respect the honourable member’s call for this PSA test to be
included under OHIP, and we hope we get on with it.
June 9, 2005
Private Member's Business
Mr. Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): I'm pleased to join in the debate. I want to let the member know that I will certainly be supporting this bill, and on canvassing my colleagues in the Progressive Conservative caucus, I can also confirm that he will have their support on this bill.
I want to at the outset commend my colleague Joseph Tascona from Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford, who presented a very similar resolution to the Legislature on December 7. At that point in time, it was supported unanimously by the Legislature. Unfortunately, it was never implemented, and the government of the day, I regret to say, did not follow through on the wishes of the private member's hour. I want to frame the rest of my remarks with a letter that is dated April 8, 2005. It was from the Retired Teachers of Ontario, and it's addressed to Dalton McGuinty, the Premier. It reads as follows: "On behalf of the political action committee of the Retired Teachers of Ontario .we are seeking an update on the position of your government related to the funding of the.PSA test.
"In November 2002, in your then role as Opposition leader, you responded to a similar inquiry.with the following statement: 'In light of the fact that physicians are ordering the test because they view it as a medical necessity, the Ontario Liberals believe it should be made available to patients free of charge.'
"As it has been almost a year and a half since your government was formed, our political action committee is anxious to know when you plan to make the PSA test available, free of charge, so we may share this information with our 55,000 members. We hasten to point out that this is indeed a gender equity matter." End of that letter.
The Premier has made the commitment. It is a promise of the Premier. It is unfortunate that some two years later now it takes a private member's bill to remind the Premier of his promise to, in fact, make this important test free of charge, available through OHIP. The Premier is clearly on record as saying that's what he'll do. I fully expect that this bill will be passed today. I fully expect that the Premier will be reminded, and I fully expect that we will hear the Minister of Health stand in his place and make this important announcement to ensure without further delay that this matter is it resolved once and for all.
I want to point out that not only is the Premier in support of this, but certainly, members of the current cabinet and others who are now the government who have the opportunity to make this decision are clearly on the record as supporting this. I want to read into the record comments by Mr. Jim Bradley from St. Catharines . This was in the course of debate to Mr. Tascona's resolution in December 2000. "I am going to" speak "in favour and I'll be voting in favour of the resolution today. I'm going to deal primarily with what is in provincial jurisdiction, as I believe we very often and unwisely spend a lot of time dealing with federal jurisdiction" and he goes on to say: "I want to deal with the test itself. I raised this issue about the PSA test in a question to the minister on December 17, 1998. I happen to believe the PSA test should be available to men who wish to have that test at no cost-it's as simple as that, in my view-just as other tests are available for other reasons." That question, that the current minister Bradley referred to, was indeed put to the then-Minister of Health. I quote, December 17, 1998, Hansard, he says to the minister: "Why is it that this government is forcing men in this province to pay for the PSA test, which could prevent them from getting cancer, or detecting cancer early?" The minister referred in her response to the fact that unfortunately, it's not a political decision, that there are others within government who make that decision. Well, I hear from the Premier, I know that the confirmation that I'm hearing from members of the Liberal caucus today, they would not have brought this forward without consultation with the Premier and with ministers on the front bench, that they are giving us a great deal of confidence today to know that when this bill is passed, that we will, in fact, see the minister stand and make this important announcement that PSA tests from this point forward, will, in fact, be covered by OHIP.
I received a number of e-mails just recently from my constituents as well. I want to read into the record a letter from my constituent Mr. George Butcher of Richmond Hill . He writes: "Thanks to regular (annual) PSA testing, I am alive today. What if I chose not to pay the $20 or if my doctor had not chosen to support this testing? I consider myself lucky that I could afford to pay for these tests and that my doctor sees the light. Those that can't or won't pay the $20 are costing the province, you and I, millions of dollars in medical treatment, not to mention their lives, that might have been avoided. Please support the inclusion of the cost of this testing in the Ontario medical coverage. "Thank you."
To him I say that I certainly am supporting this resolution today and will support and applaud the government for doing so.
Another letter I received is from Mr. J.E. DeToro of Richmond Hill . He writes, "I am very concerned that the cost of PSA testing in a doctor's office or testing lab for men who have not been diagnosed with prostate cancer is not covered for several reasons: The cost could be a factor for many men. In addition, the fact that OHIP does not cover the test implies that it is not useful or valid. Finally, the cost is covered when the test is carried out at a hospital, but this could make some men less likely to have it performed because of the added inconvenience."
He goes on to encourage this government to proceed with ensuring that the PSA test is indeed covered by OHIP.
I want to just say very clearly that this is an opportune time for the government to act. There is now before us this private member's bill, and I encourage all members of the Legislature to demonstrate unanimously their support for this initiative.
I thank those who have been lobbying over the years and who have not given up on this issue. It is very clearly something that needs to be done. There may be immediate short-term costs, but as we've heard in debate today, what we invest today in this test will save multimillions of dollars in future health care costs in this province, and for that reason, I am pleased to add my support to this.
In closing, I want to just say to you that I'm pleased to have with us today in the gallery students from St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School in Richmond Hill . It's their opportunity to observe procedures in the Legislature and to see first-hand how important decisions are made in this province.
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© 2008 Frank Klees, M.P.P. All Rights Reserved