CancerCare Manitoba
News Item

June 10, 2011


$40-Million Comprehensive, Aggressive Strategy To Focus on Shortening the Entire Patient Journey: Selinger

A $40-million, comprehensive, aggressive and first-in-Canada cancer strategy will streamline cancer services and dramatically reduce the wait time for patients between the time cancer is suspected and the start of effective treatment, Premier Greg Selinger announced today.

"This is a bold step forward for patients in our province and I am proud that Manitoba will be the first in the country to implement this very important and revolutionary program,? said Selinger. "This important new initiative will ensure Manitoba patients have access to faster cancer testing, diagnosis and treatment by reducing the time for the entire patient journey to two months or less.?

Manitoba currently has the shortest wait time in Canada for radiation therapy at one week or less according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. This is a standard measure of wait times used in every province but only captures the wait from when a radiation specialist declares a patient ready for treatment to the day the treatment actually begins. This measure does not include other parts of a patient?s journey such as, referrals, testing, diagnosis, re testing and the development of a treatment plan.

This new initiative will address the entire journey, from when a patient?s family doctor first suspects cancer until treatment actually begins, said Selinger . CancerCare Manitoba estimates the full cancer patient journey for many currently takes three to nine months. It says this new initiative will reduce the total journey to two months or less.

The project is modeled after similar successful initiatives undertaken first in the England as well as in New Zealand and Australia. Prof. Mike Richards, the national cancer director who oversaw the project in the England through the National Cancer Plan and the Cancer Reform Strategy, will provide guidance with implementing the strategy in Manitoba. In 2009, Queen Elizabeth II knighted Richards for his successful and outstanding contributions to cancer reform.

"I am very pleased to share what we have learned and support this comprehensive and strategic battle against cancer,? said Richards, national clinical director for cancer and end of life care, National Health Service of England. "Our experience can support the rapid implementation of important and tangible changes to cancer services, which in turn change outcomes for patients.?

The Manitoba cancer patient journey strategy will include:
  • streamlining health services for cancer patients and prioritizing areas for action;
  • guaranteeing an appointment with a specialist within two weeks or less for urgent referrals;
  • developing a rapid diagnostic network for cancer patients to better link and speed up diagnostic imaging and pathology;
  • introducing cancer patient journey advocates to monitor and help cancer patients and families through their entire journey, identify delays and issues, and work to resolve them to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment; and
  • establishing the Manitoba Partnership Against Cancer, a coalition of health-care leaders who will focus on and ensure all parts of the health-care system integrate their services and implement system-wide changes as rapidly and efficiently as possible to deliver patient-centred care.

"This spring, the provincial government committed $70 million to a new state-of-the-art CancerCare facility to improve cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment, a game-changer in the fight against cancer,? said Dr. Dhali Dhaliwal, president and CEO, CancerCare Manitoba. "The cancer patient journey strategy announced today is a life-changer, as it will help CancerCare Manitoba and all other parts of the health-care system work together to wrap our services around the needs of the patient and deliver better co-ordinated, faster quality care to patients across Manitoba.?

This system-wide cancer reform strategy, estimated to take up to five-years to implement based on the experience in the UK, will focus first on areas requiring urgent action such as rapidly growing cancers, patients without a family doctor and waits identified as being particularly long, Selinger said.

Every year, more than 6,000 Manitobans are diagnosed with cancer, while up to 10 times that number are suspected of having cancer and undergo testing before it is ruled out. Like most other jurisdictions, Manitoba is projecting a 50 per cent increase in cancer cases over the next 20 years.

"We believe this aggressive and proven strategy will make a real difference in the lives of Manitoba families by ensuring faster referrals, testing, diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients,? said Health Minister Oswald. "This strategy will improve the cancer patient?s journey by building on investments in cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment over the last decade and will help prepare Manitoba for the increase in cancer cases expected in the years ahead.?

Since 1999, the provincial government has invested in cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment to improve cancer services for Manitobans. These investments include:
  • reducing the wait times for radiation therapy from six weeks in 1999 (up to 18 weeks to start prostate cancer treatments) to a best-in-Canada median of one week and ensuring these waits stay short with a wait-time guarantee;
  • building an additional five rural community cancer sites for chemotherapy, a new Western Manitoba Cancer Centre in Brandon and additional treatment spaces for radiation therapy in Winnipeg;
  • increasing the number of oncology specialist positions by almost 50 per cent;
  • more than doubling the oncology drug budget;
  • becoming the first province in Canada to install a gamma knife for the non-invasive treatment of cancers and tumours in the brain;
  • being the first-in-Canada to launch a colorectal cancer screening program and expanding both cervical and breast cancer screening; and
  • focusing on prevention through healthy living initiatives and funding voluntary HPV vaccinations.

"Our past investments have improved services for patients and families and built a strong foundation,? said Selinger. "Today?s announcement positions Manitoba to be able to take the next step to address challenges and build a cancer-care system that is not only the best in Canada, but among the best in the world.?

Click here to view current news items

Click here to view archived news items