What has a provincial election got to do with cancer?

Greetings from Ontario where we are in full election mode. Signs are up on lawns. Eager candidates are knocking on doors. So, with apologies to those living in the rest of the universe, I hope you won’t mind me sharing some personal thoughts about elections, kidney cancer, and where they overlap.

All decisions about cancer care and treatment are made by provincial governments. While we believe in a Canadian, universal health care system for all, the reality is that health is very much a provincial responsibility funded (in large part) by transfers from our Federal government. Decisions about which cancer drugs to fund, investments in cancer centres, and funding formulas all rest with each provincial government. Just write to the Federal Health Minister and she will tell you that…

Election day in Ontario is Thursday, June 12, 2014. Please take the opportunity to raise the issues of kidney cancer patients to the person knocking on your door, at local events, and in your local community newspapers.

Below are some key points for elected officials in Ontario to know and understand. Please share them in person, by email or via social media with your local candidates.

Key Issue 1: Access to Drugs that are LISTED on the Ontario Formulary

  • Almost all kidney cancer drugs are oral, take-home chemotherapies. Unless the patient has private insurance (and many don’t have enough coverage even if they do), or are over 65, the family must submit to a complex reimbursement system through the Trillium Drug Plan. Trillium is failing Ontario’s cancer patients both through delays in access and costly deductibles that many families, young people, and others simply cannot afford.
  • Ontario has fallen behind the four Western provinces and Quebec in that it does not equally fund IV and take-home (e.g., oral) cancer medications. IV treatments are fully funded. Oral cancer treatments fall outside of Cancer Care Ontario’s funding program: See www.cancertaintyforall.ca for details!
  • The diagnosis of kidney cancer can be overwhelming and the additional stress caused by financial co-pays, paperwork and delays is an unnecessary and unfair burden.
  • Our goal: from diagnosis to “cancer prescription filled” in one seamless process!

Key Issue 2: Access to New Medications in a Timely Manner

  • Once clinical trials are complete, manufacturers of new medications submit to Health Canada for approval for use in Canada. Once Health Canada approves a drug for kidney cancer, it can take up to TWO YEARS for the province of Ontario to list the drug on its provincial formulary.
  • Processes beyond Health Canada include pCODR (pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review) and now pCPA (pan-Canadian Pricing Alliance) and then the provincial agreements to list  — listings which include strict eligibility criteria that can (and often are) different in each province.
  • ON must make a commitment to improve access to new medications for cancer – because cancer patients with a life-threatening disease cannot wait two years
  • Kidney cancer patients need assurance that Ontario is committed to having a leading cancer agency and best-in-Canada outcomes for cancer patients.

How do you share these messages?

  • At the door: Candidates will be knocking on doors to connect directly with voters, this is a great chance to talk about what matters to you and your family.
  • At events: Public events are a common place to find candidates, you can talk to them there about issues affecting kidney cancer patients and cancer patients in general.
  • By email or phone: Find the websites of the political parties and of your local candidates and send an email or make a phone call detailing your concern for kidney cancer patients and ask for the candidate’s support of issues
  • Social media: If you are using Twitter and/or Facebook, connect with your local candidates and the party leaders on those social networks and engage in a a conversation about these issues.
    • On Facebook, search for your local candidates or the provincial parties, and post a short, respectful message about your concerns
    • On Twitter, use the ‘hashtags’: #onpoli and #voteon to bring your messages to people beyond the candidates and be sure to tag us in your tweets with @KidneyCancer_Ca or @CanCertainty so that we can Re-Tweet you
    • On Twitter, connect to the political parties via hastags and accounts including:
      • Green Party of Ontario:  @OnGreens and  #gpo
      • Liberal Party of Ontario: @OnLiberal and #olp
      • NDP of Ontario: @OntarioNDP and #ONDP
      • Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario: @OntarioPCParty and #pcpo

“Wow. I Had No Idea…”

Remember, this is an opportunity to raise awareness and educate candidates across Ontario. This may be the first time they are learning about issues in our cancer system, so please be respectful  — many will have no idea of the issues. Please feel free to direct them to the video on the CanCertainty website.

Every conversation that you can have with potential government decision makers takes us another step closer to making change for kidney cancer patients – and those diagnosed in the years to come.

Thank you. We look forward to your feedback. Please feel free to share with us the interactions you have. We’ll look forward to candidates saying that they’ll stand up for cancer patients when they get elected. And then we’ll hold them to it.

With thanks to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada for their generous permission to adapt their grassroots action campaign for Kidney Cancer Canada. http://www.braintumour.ca  

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