By: Hugh Smith
Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital will now have to turn away patients from outside of the city seeking all kinds of treatments, including cancer for which the hospital is well known.
The move comes after an order from the Montreal Health and Social Services Agency.
Many colorectal cancer patients province-wide in Quebec come to the hospital’s Segal Cancer Center to seek treatment, which is regarded as a world-class cancer treatment facility.
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in Canada. In Quebec alone, approximately 6,300 new cases are diagnosed every year. After Ontario, Quebec has the second-largest number of colorectal patients in Canada.
Barry Stein, president of the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada, is calling on the agency to reverse its decision.
“This new policy by (the agency) would have the hospital send back patients to seek treatment in their region,” Stein told Humber News.
“It’s bad enough that patients can’t travel from province-to-province throughout the country, but now patients can’t even travel within the province to seek the expertise that they require for their cancer treatment.”
“Ariane Lareau, press attaché to Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert, said the goal of the policy is to “ensure that people receive medical services close to their home and that’s what they want,” the Montreal Gazette reported on Feb. 7.
As for the response from the hospital itself, Stein said if they were allowed they would like to continue to treat everyone who needs it.
“The hospital wants to be able to treat as many patients as they can treat, and provide the expertise that they have there, and make it available to patients where it’s required,” he said.
Dr. Te Vuong, director of the Segal Cancer Center’s Radiation Oncology Division, agreed.
“The colorectal radiation therapy program at the JGH is internationally renowned,” Vuong said in a press release.
“The clinical results of the decision, in terms of survival, are among the best reported in the world, and are the only results available in Quebec. To deny people from other regions access to these treatments is intolerable and hard to justify.”
Stein said that while the agency hasn’t been forthcoming in feedback, he has experienced a large amount of support.
“We haven’t had any response from the agency,” Stein said. But, outside of Montreal “there’s been an overwhelming response from the public and from the media supporting the institution and the rights of patients,” he said.
When contacted, the health agency declined to comment.
Stein said his province’s method of treating cancer patients needs to be improved.
“In Quebec we do need to see a revamping of our full manner in which we treat cancer patients, and support patients in their right to seek cancer care where they feel they can best be served,” said Stein. “If this right is taken away from patients it really has a great effect on their civil liberties.”