NDP: Chemo drug shortage delays treatments, Minister unaware

NDP Health Critic France Gélinas says the Liberal government dropped the ball when it came to a recent shortage of a cancer treatment drug in Ontario and needs to tell Ontarians what it will do to ensure it doesn't happen again. 

“The last thing that cancer patients and their family want to hear is that their treatment will be delayed. Just think about it: you have cancer, your life depends on prompt treatment and you’re told that you will have to wait - that there’s a chemotherapy drug shortage,” said Gélinas during question period this morning. “That’s exactly what’s happening right here in Ontario. Now we know that at least 35 people in Richmond Hill have had their cancer treatments delayed.”

Last week news emerged of a shortage of urgently-needed chemotherapy drugs in Ontario hospitals. Health Minister Eric Hoskins claimed not to have heard about the problem, when asked about the issue by reporters, despite the fact that the shortage is rooted in problems with a shipment that occurred in October. 

“I understand that Health Canada has taken steps to try to fix the shortage, at least in the short-term, but it doesn’t explain how the Minister of Health wasn’t even aware that it was going on,” said Gélinas. “When cancer patients are forced to delay their treatments because of a shortage of chemo drugs, this is as close to life and death as you can get. I would think that the Minister of Health would want to know about such a failure of our healthcare system so that he can take steps to correct it.”

Gélinas, the MPP for Nickel Belt, called on the Health Minister to explain how he failed to know what was happening in such a critical part of his portfolio, and what steps he's taking to ensure it doesn't happen again.

“When was the Ministry of Health informed of this drug shortage and why did it take so long for the minister to find out about it?” asked Gélinas.