Saturday, September 15, 2007

Belinda Stronach's cancer choice IS a big deal

Considering the turbulence of her career as an MP, it seems nothing short of cruelty on Fate's part to add breast cancer to Belinda Stronach's woes. Perhaps after the defection, the McKay Meltdown and the Domi Affair the media collectively decided to cut Stronach a break when she chose to seek part of her treatment for DCIS from an American physician. We are assured that it was merely the best choice suggested by her doctor, that the American physician was likely to provide a better outcome and that there wouldn't have been any difference in the timeline for her care if provided in Ontario.

In the normal course of events, any MP who bypassed the sacred covenant of Tommy Douglas for a private facility would have been accused of betraying healthcare, but everyone has the right to preserve their health no matter what the political fallout. The question is not therefore whether Stronach was wrong to pursue a course her medical professional advised.

The question is why was she obligated to leave Canada at all. We pour hundreds of millions into cancer charities to fund research into new therapies. Our roads are worn out from walking and running feet raising money for one cause or another - not least the Terry Fox Run. We have, as today's Star points out, two separate health taxes in Ontario - the Ontario Health Tax/Premium and the Ontario Surtax as introduced by Mike Harris.

At the same time, our health system doesn't seem to be able to afford to fund physicians to be conversant in the most advanced techniques already developed. Ms Stronach should request the Federal Ministry of Health to fund as a matter of urgency a joint programme of training so that where a patient in Canada is obligated to receive treatment in the US due to a lack of skills, to expeditiously fill that gap so that future patients can be referred to at least one location in Canada under medicare.

It is alarming enough that in certain areas we seem to be depending on our neighbours to cover up gaps in our patient capacity without them covering gaps in our capability too - especially when the next patient might not be able to afford the California option.
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