Concerned Citzens for the Calgary Cancer Centre (C5) says the province let patients down when they downsized a billion dollar promise to build a world-class, one-stop cancer facility next to the Foothills hospital.
Instead, Premier Jim Prentice and Health Minister Stephen Mandel announced a smaller, cheaper facility 32 km away at the South Health campus, with future renovations for the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
“It was done on the eve of an election, and it struck me as a media opportunity, something they thought would make us go away,” said C5 spokesperson John Osler. “But we’re not going to.”
Patients currently shuttle between as many as five sites around Calgary to access cancer treatment.
The single-site cancer centre originally announced for the northeast corner of the Foothills site on 16 Avenue N.W. would have allowed doctors and researchers to work side by side, in an effort to save more lives.
Osler, a cancer survivor, believes with enough public pressure, the decision can be reversed.
“It requires the will of the community to express to the government that this is wrong, and this cuts across political lines.”
Global News asked the leaders about the cancer centre on the campaign trail Thursday.
Speaking in Medicine Hat, PC leader Jim Prentice said capital spending to tie cancer care to research would have to wait until the province is in better financial shape.
“The immediate priority is the treatment of cancer patients, and that can be done most cost effectively at the South Health Campus,” Prentice said.
Liberal leader David Swann called the decision to change the previously-approved plan for the cancer hospital a “boondoggle.”
“The best of reporting, engineering, prototyping, and now suddenly it’s been thrown out,” Swann said. “This is unacceptable.”
Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley vowed her government would re-instate the original plan.
“We should be investing in moving forward the construction and completion of that hospital as originally promised,” Notley said.
Wildrose leader Brian Jean would only say that his party will “focus on the problems with the cancer hospital in Calgary,” without providing further details.
Cancer patient Jenn Birchall is fighting four brain tumours, and hopes people will sign the petition, and consider cancer care when they vote.
“I really hope people stop and think about who they want,” Birchall said. “Because to me there is only one issue in this election, and that’s the cancer centre at the Foothills. Period.”