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CRR MLA Clovechok frustrated by rural access to cancer care

Deal with Bellingham, WA, fine for people from Lower Mainland, MLA says, but why not work something out with Alberta?
Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok at the Legislature. Bulletin file

The province of B.C. announced in May that cancer patients who are eligible will be able to go to two clinics in Bellingham, Wash., for treatment – equating to as many as 50 patients each week. Costs related to treatment, such as travel, meals and accommodation will be covered through BC Cancer and the Provincial Health Services Authority.

It’s anticipated that over two years, roughly 4,800 patients will benefit from the temporary program.

As well, 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.

Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok has some questions about the program, that he has addressed in a letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix.

His questions are:

1. Will rural B.C. patients receive financial support from the province while they access treatment within B.C. such as at Kelowna, or is this just for those who are sent to Bellingham? If it is just the latter, then I would appreciate learning the reasoning behind that.

2. Will rural British Columbians who have already spent tens of thousands of dollars in cancer treatment in B.C. receive any compensation? If not, why not?

3. Will cancer patients from Columbia River-Revelstoke be sent to Bellingham, or will this option only apply to patients from urban areas in the Lower Mainland? If so, I would like to understand why.

Of course, the million dollar question, Clovechok says, is why there isn’t more effort being put into sending patients to Alberta.“They can work out a deal with Washington, in U.S. dollars,” Clovechok said. “The Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary is one of the best. But we can’t work out something there? No one has the answer. It’s a clear as mud.

“I’m tired of hearing the distress in my constituents voice,” he said. “They’re being treated like second class citizens. People from here don’t know anyone in Bellingham. Why are we not focused on Alberta?”

In his letter, Clovechok reminded Dix that he had been in direct and written conversation with the last two Alberta Health Ministers advocating for B.C to work closely with the Alberta government on an effective trans-border health care model that will provide care options for those British Columbians who live closer to the Alberta border.

“This process is clearly aligned with the Canadian Heath Act. Once the Alberta government has announced its new cabinet positions, I will request a face-to-face meeting with the new Alberta Minister of Health. As we have discussed many times, reduced travel distances and costs result in better outcomes for patients.”

The MLA said he was waiting for a new Alberta Health Minister to be in place and then he would ask for a meeting. He says in his estimation there doesn’t appear to be a reluctance on the part of Alberta to talk about this issue.

“We have to figure it out,” Clovechok said.

Everything can’t be baked into one big policy, he says. Rural patients already have to travel long distances for cancer care. Why not work something out that makes it easier?

In the meantime, he says, he will continue to fight for better access to cancer care for his constituents.

“They deserve better,” he said.

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Carolyn Grant

About the Author: Carolyn Grant

I have been with the Kimberley Bulletin since 2001 and have enjoyed every moment of it.
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