Six months after B.C.’s NDP government took steps to send breast and prostate cancer patients to two clinics in Bellingham, wait times in the province have actually gotten worse.
Dan Quayle celebrated his 52nd birthday on October 7 at Victoria General Hospital, waiting to find out when he would start chemotherapy for aggressive esophageal cancer.
He would die if he waited.
After a 10-week hospital stay, Quayle, an outgoing grandfather who did his best foolish acts for his two grandchildren, endured so much pain that he was unable to eat or walk and died on November 24th. (He chose medically assisted death – despite doctors’ assurances.) Doctors said chemotherapy could add a year to his life.
Quayle’s daughter-in-law, Shailene Griffiths (whom his mother, Kathleen Carmichael, has lived with for 16 years) said the family is waiting to see if Quayle changes his mind or is scheduled for chemotherapy at the 11th. He said he was praying for a phone call.
As the weeks dragged on in the hospital, Carmichael continued to seek answers about when chemotherapy would occur.
“That kind of schedule never existed,” said Ms Griffiths, who lives in Victoria state. “Their exact words were, ‘We’re backlogged.'”
Despite still grieving Quayle’s death and planning to celebrate his life, Quayle’s family spoke with two Vancouver Island women who announced their decision to seek treatment in the United States to avoid delays. I was forced to speak out about his inappropriate care.BC
“If he had gotten treatment sooner, I think I might still have had Dan,” Ms Carmichael said.
Six months after B.C.’s government took steps to ease treatment backlogs in B.C. by sending breast and prostate cancer patients to two clinics in Bellingham, Wash., waiting times in the province have increased. It actually got worse.
Only 75 per cent of cancer patients are receiving radiation therapy within the Canadian standard of 28 days, down from 77 per cent in May, according to BC Cancer Agency data provided to Postmedia.
This is well below the national average of 97%, making it one of the worst rates in the country.
The agency does not provide waiting time data for chemotherapy.
Part of BC Cancer’s explanation is that the number of patients requiring treatment is increasing, with a 16% increase in patients starting treatment in the past four weeks compared to April 2023.
But the latest wait time numbers are a different picture than what BC Cancer chief medical officer Dr. Kim Nguyen Chi presented last week, who claimed the situation had improved thanks to the hiring of additional radiation therapists. is drawing.
In an interview with Postmedia before the data was released, Chee said the company has hired 27 radiation therapists since Oct. 1 to address the backlog by sending eligible cancer patients to the U.S. for radiation treatment. he said.
In May, Chee expects to be able to send 50 patients a week to the U.S. (20% of those needing radiation therapy), leading to improved wait times in British Columbia in the coming months. He said he is doing so.
But last week, BC United released provincial data showing an average of 12 cancer patients per week travel to Bellingham for radiation treatment. Of the 1,310 breast and prostate cancer patients referred for radiation therapy in the United States from May 29 to November 10, only 310 started treatment.
Chee said these numbers don’t tell the whole story.
From September to early November, the average number of patients receiving radiation therapy each day in the U.S. was 42, Chee said. In the past two weeks, that number has increased to 51 cases.
This shows the program is “successful,” he said. “It just took me a while to get back on my feet.”
Chee said there are no immediate plans to expand the program beyond breast and prostate cancer patients. These patients make up the largest group of patients receiving radiation therapy and have the longest wait times.
B.C.’s cancer care system has long been plagued by long wait times for every step of the cancer process, from diagnostic imaging to initial consultation with an oncologist to radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Chee, a medical oncologist and internationally recognized prostate cancer expert who has worked at the BC Cancer Agency since 1997, said, He said he shares the “pain.”
“We want a system that responds quickly to patients, and for cancer patients, the wait times are too long, which is a blessing,” Chee said, but said she could not discuss specific patient cases due to confidentiality. I couldn’t speak.
He said he has confidence in the province’s 10-year cancer plan, which includes $440 million in spending in the first three years and new care centers planned for Nanaimo, Surrey, Burnaby and Kamloops. .
“I think the measures that have been initiated so far and those that will be taken will improve the system. I wish we could have acted sooner for the patients I see every day.”
Last week, two Vancouver Island women shared their experiences with the province’s cancer system and the delays that forced them to seek treatment in the United States.
Alison DuCrusot paid $200,000 out of pocket for surgery in the United States after her BC Cancer oncologist told her she was not a candidate for surgery.
Christine Logan, a 43-year-old woman from Campbell River, was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. sought chemotherapy in Washington state Logan was told he would have to wait three to four months for treatment in British Columbia, but because he is a dual citizen and a veteran of the U.S. military, his treatment costs were covered.
Carmichael regrets that the answer was to leave the country in search of faster treatment.
“If we had more money, we could have gone to America. But we are just ordinary people.”
Quayle began experiencing sharp stomach pains and bloody stools this spring. Quayle was a tall, stocky man, 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds, and was used to manual labor, having worked in metal recycling. Suddenly he felt tired and dizzy all the time.
His doctor dismissed this as a side effect of the diabetes drug Ozempic he was taking.
In July, Mr Carmichael took Mr Quayle to Victoria General Hospital in extreme pain. The ER doctor said he didn’t think there was much that could be done about Quayle’s illness, which included debilitating sores.
“I had to ask, please don’t send him home,” she said.
After a medical imaging scan, the doctors told us: we are very worried. ”
The couple went home to wait for the results, which ultimately revealed he had stage 4 esophageal cancer.
One day in September, Quayle’s face was swollen and his body “felt like I was in a house fire,” he said. He was rushed by ambulance to Victoria General and eventually transferred to the Cancer Center at Royal Jubilee Hospital. He never returned home.
“As each week went by, I said, ‘Just one week left.’ [without treatment]” Carmichael said.
Quayle was a foodie with a particular love for cheesecake and homemade pies made from strawberries from the couple’s garden, but in her final weeks she was too unwell to eat solid food. This sent him into a depression, and his family barely recognized the energetic man he was known to his grandchildren as Papa Dan.
He was able to eat cheesecake at the hospital on his 52nd birthday, surrounded by his mother, two children and their partners, and two lifelong friends.
On Nov. 22, Quayle said, although the chemotherapy schedule has not yet been determined. “I just can’t do it anymore,” Carmichael recalled. He requested a medically assisted death.
On the night leading up to Nov. 24, Carmichael pulled up the bed next to Quayle and snuggled in for the last time.
When the drug that would end her life was given, she said her goodbyes while listening to a heavy metal version. sound of silence Disturbed’s nod to Quayle’s love of heavy metal music.
Carmichael said no one should have to go through what Quayle and his family went through.
“We realized that our system is broken,” she said. “Too many cancer patients are waiting too long.”