B.C. announces 10-year cancer care plan, $440M investment

B.C. Premier David Eby announced a new 10-year cancer care plan on Feb. 24, 2023. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)
B.C. Premier David Eby announced a new 10-year cancer care plan on Feb. 24, 2023. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The provincial government has announced a new 10-year plan to better prevent and detect cancer, and make access to cancer care easier for all British Columbians.

The province said it will spend $440 million to expand cancer care teams and service hours, introduce new payment structures to attract and retain staff, as well as invest in new research and technology.

It will also focus on rural and remote communities by increasing funding for residents having to travel for cancer care, and building cancer centres in more communities so people won't have to travel as far.

This announcement comes after the province announced a $5-billion operating surplus in November. In its throne speech earlier this month, the NDP government promised "record new investments" in housing and health care.

Of the $440 million, the first $270 million will be distributed over the next three years, with the first yearly $90 million to be made available April 1, 2023.

The remaining $170 million has been designated for one-time funding, including grants to B.C. Cancer.

iStock/Getty Images
iStock/Getty Images

More than 30,000 British Columbians were newly diagnosed with cancer in 2021. That same year, 11,000 people in B.C. died as a result of the disease.

It is estimated that 50 per cent of B.C. residents will face a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.

"Nearly every British Columbian has been affected by cancer in some way, through their own diagnosis or that of a family member or friend," Premier David Eby said.

"It is one of the greatest health-care challenges we face."

Over the next three years, the province plans to expand cervical, lung and hereditary cancer screening, including at-home tests for HPV (human papillomavirus) to help identify cervical cancer. Ultimately, the province says it wants to eliminate cervical cancer altogether in B.C.

The plan also includes expanding hours for treatment and reducing wait times for surgery.

The province says it wants to add more Indigenous patient support positions, to ensure more culturally safe care for Indigenous individuals and families.

Oncologists to get a raise

Oncologists in B.C. will get a raise from $410,000 a year to $472,000, which Dix says will make B.C. the top-paying province for cancer care physicians in the country.

When asked how long current wait times are for cancer care, Dix did not answer, but acknowleged there are both systemic and acute strains on the system.

However, Dr. Kim Chi, an oncologist with B.C. Cancer, said they aim to have 90 per cent of patients seen by an oncologist four weeks after being referred. The optimal time period for people receiving treatment varies depending on the type of treatment they're receiving, he said.

"These are achievable goals," Chi said.

"It does take time to recruit people, it does take time to treat people. Although there may not have been an immediate change, this will happen over time."

Chi, who has been with B.C. Cancer for more than two decades, said this plan and investment are "unprecedented."

"This is really a defining moment that puts B.C. on a transformational path as leaders in cancer care."