Canadian women in the province of Quebec are doing their best to avoid long wait times for surgeries for deadly cancers, reports the Montreal Gazette. The problem is spread across provincial hospitals and doctors are now “refusing to accept new patients quickly because they can’t treat them.”
“Long surgery wait times for deadly ovarian, cervical and breast cancers in Quebec are three times longer than government benchmarks, leading some desperate patients to shop around for an operating room,” according to the Gazette.
The latest Quebec provincial government figures show that over an 11-month span, 7,780 patients in Montreal waited six months or more for day surgeries and another 2,957 patients waited the same amount of time for operations that require hospitalization.
“Canada’s system comes at the cost of pain and suffering for patients who endure inhumane delays for medically necessary and in some cases life-saving care,” Nadeem Esmail, Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “Wait lists for medically necessary health care are Canada’s shame.”
Experts say that gynecological cancer cases are the worst because of how quickly the cancer spreads by the time it is detected, and patients are waiting as long as three months to have cancers removed, instead of four weeks.
One worried patient, a mother of five children who waited three months for surgery for invasive breast cancer, said she is worried about the effects of such a long wait. After surgery, she paid $800 for a bone scan in a private clinic rather than wait five months for a scan at the Jewish General Hospital.
“The Supreme Court of Canada found that Canadians suffer physically and psychologically while waiting for treatment in the public health-care system, and that the government monopoly on essential health services imposes a risk of death and irreparable harm,” Esmail said.
One female patient and mother of five children waited three months for breast cancer surgery, and told the Gazette she is worried about the effects that such a long wait could have. After her surgery, she went to a private clinic and paid $800 for a bone scan instead of waiting five months for a scan at the hospital.
“It’s a crisis for Quebec women,” Lucy Gilbert, director of gynecological oncology and the gynecologic cancer multi-disciplinary team at the McGill University Health Centre, told the Gazette.
Gilbert told the Gazette that there are some days she cannot face going to work at the Royal Victoria Hospital and dealing with crying patients.
“Put yourself in their place. … I have difficulty making eye contact with patients. I am ashamed to be in such a situation,” she said.
“Cancer patients are very vulnerable — no patient should wait, but especially cancer,” said Dr. Robert Sabbah, president of the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Quebec, also adding that some patients go elsewhere for care to reduce wait times.
Some patients are even heading to the U.S. for treatment — 46,159 Canadians in 2011 — according to the nonpartisan Fraser Institute. Among those who sought treatment outside Canada, 4,600 were from Quebec, with 214 of them receiving gynecological treatment and 664 getting general surgery.