Analysis: Quebec is facing a ‘disaster’ in cancer care, experts warn

“Cancer patients feel abandoned by the system during this pandemic,” says Diego Mena of the Canadian Cancer Society.

(Aaron Derfel/ Montreal Gazette) — Three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Quebec is facing an unprecedented crisis in cancer care, with thousands of people walking around with malignancies that have gone undiagnosed and a potential backlog of about 24,000 oncology surgeries can no longer be delayed, experts in the field warn.

The crisis is all the more pressing because coronavirus outbreaks are still occurring sporadically in Montreal hospitals where most of the cancer surgeries take place, putting patients at added risk of infection. Yet the government is not devoting the necessary funds and hasn’t come up with a comprehensive plan, the experts have told the Montreal Gazette.

“People feel abandoned, yes,” said Diego Mena, director of advocacy for the Quebec division of the Canadian Cancer Society, describing the heightened anxiety among patients. “Cancer patients feel abandoned by the system during this pandemic.”

The latest figures released by the Quebec Health Ministry paint a disturbing portrait of the situation, with 30 per cent of chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions still not available. What’s more, the overall backlog in elective surgeries has grown from 68,000 — a figure Health Minister Danielle McCann cited last month — to more than 72,000 as of this week. (…)

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