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Rapid Recap: B.C. Announces 10-year Cancer Action Plan and $440M in new funding

Friday, February 24, 2023 – B.C. Premier David Eby and Minister of Health Adrian Dix today released a 10-year Cancer Action Plan and $440 million in new funding to improve access to care over the next three years.

The new investment will

  • Expand cancer-care teams and service hours,
  • Introduce revised pay structures to ensure B.C. is attractive and competitive for oncologists and cancer-care professionals,
  • Improve cancer screening programs,
  • Support cancer research,
  • Increase Indigenous patient support positions, and
  • Support patients who must travel for care from rural communities.

Additional details on these initiatives will be released in the coming months.

The B.C. government has faced sustained criticism in recent months about growing wait times to access cancer care. Critics have also said that in recent years BC Cancer has prioritized fiscal management over maintaining excellence in cancer control compounding these challenges.

Minister Dix said the challenges faced by BC Cancer are due to increased demand as a result of the province’s growing and aging population, as well as underfunding by the previous government. The B.C. government first promised this plan in 2020 and Minister Dix has been foreshadowing its release for a few months.

The Details

Summary of B.C. 10-year Cancer Action Plan

$440 million in new funding:

  • $170 million in one-off funding, including grants to BC Cancer Foundation (from year-end surplus).
  • $270 million over three years: $90 million each in the 2023/24, 2024/25, and 2025/26 fiscal years.

Four Goals of the Action Plan

  • Better Prevention + Detection: Secure a cancer-free future for more people – including the elimination of cervical cancer in B.C.
  • Improved Treatment: Improving survival, success, and quality of life – including helping thousands more people survive their cancer diagnosis.
  • More Team Care: Optimize people’s care by creating partnerships to make sure British Columbians get the care they need across their cancer journey.
  • Stronger Support + Innovation: Patients and families can count on cancer care being there with new investments in staff, technology, and research.

Actions to Improve Access to Care:

  • Expanded hours of care and access: Expanding teams and hours of operations so people can get faster access to screening, treatment and radiation appointments.
  • Revised oncologist pay: A new compensation model for oncologists to help recruit and retain more oncologists and reduce waits.
  • Improved screening programs: Improve and increase participation in cancer screening programs and expanding the Hereditary Cancer Program to help detect cancer sooner.
  • More Indigenous-focused care: Adding more Indigenous patient support positions to provide better, more culturally safe care.

Actions to increase access to new treatments and helping people get the care they need:

  • Innovative cancer treatment programs: Expanding access to new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches, treatments and technologies so people can receive cutting-edge treatment options.
  • Genomic testing: Enhancing capacity in genomic testing to deliver the optimal treatment for every patient.
  • Travel funding: More funding to people living in rural and remote communities to help cover costs of travel to appointments.

Actions to increase research and clinical trials

  • Research chairs: Four new endowed leadership and research chairs to help recruit and retain key clinical researchers that are vital to the long-term success of BC Cancer.
  • Supporting research trainees: A new BC Cancer Foundation program to attract trainees in cancer research to BC Cancer.
  • Startup seed grants: Providing research start up and seed grants to attract research talent.
  • Bursaries and scholarships: New bursaries and scholarships to support schooling for critical clinical positions in cancer care, such as radiation therapists and technologists and medical physicists.
  • Increase clinical trials: Delivering clinical trials across all cancer centres in the province – including increasing radiation oncology trials that study treatment approaches requiring fewer visits.

Santis Insights

  • External stakeholders have been increasingly critical of BC Cancer in recent years, saying the organization is no longer the leader it once was, leading to worsening outcomes and long wait times to access care.
  • A group of four former heads of the agency say it has become more concerned with fiscal management than excellence in cancer control. They said the agency is not prepared for a projected surge in cancer cases.
  • There have been a series of media stories in recent months about patients unable to access timely care including one story saying only 20 per cent of patients were able to meet with an oncologist following a referral, compared to 75 per cent in Ontario.
  • After Minister Dix blamed increased demand, the BC Liberal Opposition responded that the BC NDP has been in office now for six years and has not made necessary investments to date to ensure there is capacity for current and future demands.
  • The BC NDP first promised a 10-year action plan for cancer in October 2020 during the last provincial election and Minister Dix has been foreshadowing this strategy and increased investment for a number of months.
  • While the plan outlines long term goals it hopes to achieve over the next decade, funding and specific actions are only in place for the next three years. British Columbia voters are scheduled to go to the polls in October 2024 meaning implementing more than 60 per cent of this plan will be up to future governments.