Coalition of Citizens hold press conference to make cancer an election issue

Ontario ranks among the worst in the country in funding for newer cancer drugs and PET scans.

TORONTO, Sept. 18 /CNW/ – Ontario may be one of the richest provinces in Canada, but its cancer patients receive the poorest access to treatments.

If Ontarians want change they must vote for change is the sentiment of today’s press conference at Queen’s Park launching the campaign, “Cancer? Vote for Access.” Canada’s Association for the 50 Plus (CARP) joins forces with the Ontario Citizens Cancer Coalition (OCCC) launching this grass-roots campaign demanding that Ontario politicians commit to providing better access to cancer drugs and diagnostic positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

CARP and the OCCC are demanding that leaders from the three main parties commit to bring Ontario at par with British Columbia for access to new intravenous cancer drugs and at par with Quebec for access to PET scan imaging by the end of 2008. Letters asking for a firm commitment on the campaign’s two demands were sent to Dalton McGuinty, John Tory and Howard Hampton on September 11, 2007 with a one week deadline for a response.

Campaign members and supporters will fight to defeat vulnerable candidates belonging to the party(ies) that do not make a clear commitment to bringing in the necessary changes in Ontario’s cancer policy if elected. CARP and the OCCC intend to publicize the candidate’s responses on September 25.

“Cancer affects everyone and Ontarians shouldn’t have to fight to get the care they need,” said Holly Vengroff, director of external relations, CARP.

“We at CARP have been fighting for improvements to our healthcare system through our NoMoreWaiting campaign and that is why we have decided to support the OCCC and intend to mobilize our membership to make this an election issue.”

“Ontario ranks as one of the worst provinces in the country in terms of providing funding for access to newer intravenous cancer drugs and PET scans,” said Antonia Codispoti, co-founder, OCCC. “Currently in Ontario, only four from a list of 24 newer intravenous cancer drugs are fully funded for all citizens compared to 20 in British Columbia. Similarly, only six PET scans are fully funded in Ontario for every 100,000 people, while Quebec funds 209 per 100,000 people.”

At today’s press conference, supporters of the campaign will hear from cancer patients, some of who had to leave the province in order to get the care they need. Many have also had to fight the Ontario government in court for compensation.

Codispoti added: “As the wife of a seven year cancer survivor, I know first hand how difficult it is to navigate the system. Patients and their families should be focusing their strength on treatment and recovery not expending valuable energy on fighting Ontario’s health care system. Our demands for better cancer care will be heard at the ballot box.”

Concerned citizens who wish to join the fight can find more information on

About PET scans

Positron emission tomography, also called PET imaging or a PET scan, is a diagnostic examination used to evaluate a variety of diseases. PET scans are used most often to detect cancer and to examine the effects of cancer therapy.