A new provincial pilot will be sending eligible cancer patients across the border to receive radiation treatment, in efforts to reduce wait times in B.C.
It’s anticipated that over two years, roughly 4,800 patients will benefit from the temporary program, the province announced Monday (May 15).
BC Cancer says that starting on May 29, those eligible will be able to go to two clinics in Bellingham, Wash., for treatment – equating to as many as 50 patients each week. Costs related to treatment, such as travel, meals and accommodation will be covered through BC Cancer and the Provincial Health Services Authority. A BC Cancer support team will help arrange and coordinate travel plans to the two clinics, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Cancer Centre and the North Cascade Cancer Centre.
As well, all costs for medical services, testing and medication related to the patient’s radiation treatment, prescription medications and laboratory testing will be covered by the province.
Breast cancer and prostate cancer patients will be the first patient groups eligible to travel to Bellingham for their treatment because they are the largest group of patients receiving radiation therapy, the province said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix called the measures temporary, but integral to ensuring that patients get the care they need, when they need it. In 2021, more than 30,000 people in B.C. were newly diagnosed with cancer.
“This immediate action will support patients while we expand cancer services and hire more cancer care staff throughout the province,” he said in a statement.
Over the next two years, B.C. is expecting to see approximately 1,000 new patients requiring radiation treatment. By adding capacity, the province says that this will ensure more people receive radiation treatment by their clinical benchmark.
“Timely radiation therapy treatment is critical for people with cancer, both for their survival and overall quality of life,” said Dr. Kim Chi, chief medical officer with BC Cancer. “
Through this temporary initiative, we can take urgent action to improve outcomes, not only for those who are able to travel but also for people with cancer receiving care at our regional centres. The initiative increases our overall capacity to deliver vital radiation therapy for every British Columbian who needs it.”
Meanwhile, the province says it will continue expanding cancer care through B.C.’s Cancer Care Action Plan.