By Christina Blizzard ,QMI Agency
TORONTO - When I asked Tories and New Democrats to comment on the increasing trend of patients having to fundraise for cancer drugs and surgeries, an odd thing happened.
Both New Democrat Jagmeet Singh and Tory Frank Klees told me about cases in their own ridings where patients were having to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for care.
Cancer victim Anne Mitchell in Singh’s Bramalea-Gore-Malton riding needs a combination of cancer drugs. While all the drugs are approved cancer treatments, her particular combination isn’t covered. She has to pay $50,000 a year for the medication.
“It’s the ultimate example of bureaucracy getting in the way of treatment,” Singh told me. “The particular combination she requires because of her allergies is approved but not covered.
Mitchell tells Singh she’s prepared to sell her house to pay for treatment but what do other people do who don’t have that resource?’” the MPP wonders.
“There’s a layer of bureaucracy that’s failing the healthcare system and people are left suffering because of a system that’s not approaching problems in a common sense fashion,” he said.
Klees is trying to help a 15 year-old constituent with complex developmental and mental health needs.
“The doctors have written OHIP and said the only hope for this boy is specialized treatment we don’t have here and OHIP refuses to fund it,” Klees said.
He pointed to the billions wasted on ehealth and Ornge.
“We’re wasting billions on one hand and we’re denying Ontarians the healthcare they desperately need — it just goes on and on,” he said.
“We have a health minister who offers up platitudes and talks about how they have to be responsible and ensure they properly negotiate for the price of these drugs and treatment, yet there are no consequences for people in her ministry, senior civil servants, who have blatantly mismanaged the system.”
Health Minister Deb Matthews could not comment on specific cases.
“I can definitely say that I want all patients who are seeking treatment to know that I am committed to ensuring they get the best possible care, that I take their concerns extremely seriously, and that I am always striving to make health care better,” she said by e-mail.
Her government “took the politics out of drug funding by relying on experts to determine which drugs are funded and for what conditions,” she said.
More than 300 new drugs have been added to the provincial formulary since 2006, and the province is working with other provinces to negotiate new drug deals.
Those deals, she said, “help to speed up the drug approval process and get us lower prices given the higher volumes of a nationwide approach. We have also expanded our compassionate review policy so that more patients with rare clinical circumstances can benefit from coverage.
“When it comes to out-of-country care, our first priority is to ensure that Ontarians get access to the care they need here in Ontario — which is why we have expanded access to many services in Ontario that used to be accessed elsewhere.
“But if medically necessary care is not available in Ontario, we will make sure patients get access to it. In fact, last year, the ministry approved over 8,000 applications for services that were either not available in Ontario or not available in a timely manner. Every patient’s needs are different, and we rely on physicians to provide the best possible advice on an individual’s specific medical needs,” she said.