December 6, 2017 12:12 pm

Auditor general says wait times for cancer biopsies not meeting targets

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found long wait times for key biopsies to diagnose cancer, with only 46 per cent performed within the Ministry of Health's 14-day target.

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TORONTO – Long waits for a key cancer diagnosis procedure, underuse of radiation therapy and expensive trips to the United States for stem cell transplants are some of the health-care issues being highlighted by Ontario’s auditor general in her annual report.

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Part of the report released today looks at Ontario’s $1.6-billion annual cancer care system, concluding that while most patients are well-served, long waits for certain procedures and inefficiencies related to others remain in some areas of care.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found long wait times for key biopsies to diagnose cancer, with only 46 per cent performed within the Ministry of Health’s 14-day target.

READ MORE: Overcrowding concerns continue at London Health Science Centre

The report says a provincial target to provide radiation therapy in 48 per cent of cancer cases has not been met, with 39 per cent of patients actually receiving the treatment in 2015-2016.

The report also noted that the government is spending millions to send cancer patients to the United States for stem cell transplants because of limited capacity to perform the procedure in Ontario.

READ MORE: Ontario Patient Ombudsman finds hospitals are main source of complaints

The report also says the full cost of cancer drugs is not covered for patients if they are not administered in hospital. In British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba such drug coverage is provided regardless of where the drugs are taken.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Ontario, with more than 29,000 deaths in 2016 attributed to illness. The government estimates that about half of all Ontario residents will develop cancer in their lifetime and one in four will die from it.

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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