Oncology costs

The majority of Vancouver Island cancer patients must now travel to Victoria for many services.

Recent letters to the editor have complained about the loss of oncology specialist services at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH).

The majority of cancer patients must now travel to Victoria for many services. Also, for secondary treatment services at local facilities, patients must dig into their wallets: oncology related CT-scans, echo-cardiograms, frequent chemotherapy blood tests and visits with the local doctor to review chemo progress all require the patient to pay for parking at $2.25 for the first two hours at NRGH, which adds up.

The Canada Health Act prohibits extra billing for medically necessary procedures. However, for out-of-town patients, the parking charges are a form of stealth circumvention of the act.

The Canadian Cancer Society sponsors a lodge for out-of-town patients to receive subsidized housing and food for cancer patients while they are receiving treatment in Victoria. Radiation treatment is only available in Victoria for Vancouver Island patients who usually receive treatment for about four consecutive weeks of five consecutive days of radiation.

Together with a spouse, the total patient out-of-pocket cost for four weeks of radiation is more than $2,000. The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) does not reimburse the out-of-town patient.

While one may argue for the need for specialized treatment facilities in Nanaimo and other locations in the north, it is more cost effective for VIHA to centralize these services largely in part due to economies of scale. As VIHA can operate more effectively by centralizing the services, it behooves them to also compensate patients for out-of-town expenses.

Anthonie den Boef

Nanoose Bay