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How can Canadian cancer patients push for answers without knowing where to turn?

Click to play video: 'How can cancer patients push for answers without knowing where to turn?'
How can cancer patients push for answers without knowing where to turn?
WATCH: Accessing the health-care system is not always an easy task. Maureen Dore-Parent had to push for the care she needed. The ovarian cancer patient and a nurse says she's lucky she knew how to navigate the system. But for those who don't, how do they advocate for themselves and get access to the care they need? Global's Gloria Henriquez reports. – Nov 17, 2023

Accessing the health-care system is not always an easy task. Maureen Dore-Parent had to push for the care she needed.

The Montreal-area ovarian cancer patient and nurse says she’s lucky she knew how to navigate the system.

“People deserve to be treated, with respect and people deserve care. This is not a third-world country. This is Canada, for heaven’s sakes,” says Dore-Parent.

But for those who don’t, how do they advocate for themselves and get access to the care they need?  “If you think something is wrong: keep pushing,” Dore-Parent says.

Click to play video: 'Montreal nurse’s ovarian cancer diagnosis almost missed'
Montreal nurse’s ovarian cancer diagnosis almost missed

That’s the advice Ovarian Cancer Canada offers, too.

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“We do encourage women to document symptoms to really trust your body, trust your instinct and make sure you’re following up on these things and you’re not taking no for an answer,” said Tania Vrionis, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Canada.

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A study by think tank Fraser Institute showed that in 2022, Canadian patients waited longer than ever for medical treatment.

From the time they get a referral by a general practitioner to seeing a specialist, to ultimately getting treatment, Canadian patients waited an average of 27.4 weeks in 2022.

Quebec patients had to wait about 29.4 weeks to get treatment last year.

Patients’ rights advocate Paul Brunet says we have been dealing with delays in care since the 1990s, when Pauline Marois was health minister.

“We were caught with this kind of shortage and impossibility to treat patients, especially in oncology. She sent patients to Plattsburgh. USA. We did not mind, we were ready to pay,” said Brunet.

Brunet says he wonders if the CAQ government is looking into such solutions and that delays need to be fixed immediately.

The health ministry told Global News in a statement Thursday that directives are clear: surgeries and urgent treatments need to be prioritized.

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“Doctors have an ethical obligation to follow up in a timely manner,” wrote Marie-Claude Lacasse, spokesperson for Quebec’s health ministry.

Lacasse says that if someone has reasons to believe that there’s something missing in their case, the ministry advises people to file a complaint to the health and social services network complaint system or the college of physicians.

“I think a lot of physicians are feeling that moral injury that, ‘I want to be doing this for my patient but I don’t have the resources to do it’,” said Dr. Amanda Black, president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. “We’re also dealing with a time when physician burnout is becoming a critical issue.”

Dr. Black says specialists are still catching up with COVID-19 delays and taking on extra duties due to the lack of primary care.

Quebec recently reached a deal in principle with specialists, which officials believe will help improve access.

Still, Black advises women to make that extra call if you think something is wrong.

“Advocating both with the health-care system itself and the people working within that system, but I also think it’s part of a larger picture of how can we advocate to our policymakers, how do we advocate to our hospital administration, where do they advocate where it’s just not calling the physician’s office,” Black said.

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