Quebec Cancer Patients’ Surgery Wait Times Skyrocket, Sparking Outrage

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Close to 1,000 cancer patients in Quebec have been left on a waiting list for critical oncology surgery for over 56 days, an alarming situation severely criticized by André Fortin, the Liberal health critic. The delay blatantly infringes upon the provincial government’s target, which commits that 90 per cent of patients medically ready for surgery would be operated on in less than 28 days, and 100 per cent within 56 days.

The situation has worsened since June 2021, when the first action plan to address the surgery backlog was put forth. Back then, 353 cancer patients were enduring a wait of more than 56 days for their surgery. Fast forward two years and that figure has shockingly surged to 892.

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Fortin voiced his contempt during a question period at the National Assembly, exclaiming, “This is the third time the minister has presented a plan to catch up on surgery, and each time, it gets worse. It’s abhorrent to subject patients to this.”

Fortin, the Liberal MNA from Pontiac, castigated Health Minister Christian Dubé for his perceived complacency and lack of urgency. He underscored the current situation where 87 prostate cancer patients, 66 breast cancer patients, and 55 lung cancer patients are not being treated on schedule.

In a plea to the minister, Fortin charged, “Can you demonstrate an iota of urgency, please?”

Dubé retorted, expressing empathy for those patients on waiting lists. He cited doctors’ concerns about being unable to perform surgeries due to the unavailability of beds and hospital spaces. He underlined that the government was utilizing every resource it could muster, with its specialized medical clinics and other means, albeit limited.

The discussion then veered towards service disruptions for pregnant women in Gaspésie, where Minister Dubé attributed the issue to nurses’ vacation leaves. He explained the government’s decision to allow nurses a reprieve this summer. In August, around 80,000 nurses were reportedly not on duty for various reasons, vacation being one of them, he revealed.

This justification didn’t sit well with the Liberals, who lambasted the idea of forcing expectant mothers to travel long distances for care, putting their own and their babies’ safety at risk. To this concern, MNA Enrico Ciccone voiced his distress, to which Dubé contested: “Should we prevent our nurses from taking vacations?”