The Jewish General Hospital has been ordered to stop treating off-island patients

MONTREAL, Feb. 10, 2014 /CNW/ - The Jewish General Hospital ("JGH") has been ordered to stop treating off-island patients, including those suffering from cancer, and to send them back to receive care in their home communities. While this policy applies to all hospitals in Montreal, the JGH has become a unique cancer center in the province, providing specialized cancer care not generally accessible in most off-island centres.

Many off-island patients have sought care at the JGH for their cancer treatments. However, the Montreal Health and Social Services Agency is concerned that the JGH may exceed its budget as a consequence of the care provided to these patients, and want to see off-island patients treated in their local hospitals.

The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada ("CCAC") believes that the Agency has it wrong and is calling on the Agency to reverse its decision. "If patient numbers increase, the reasonable approach is for the funding to follow suit rather than to jeopardize the standard of care offered to these patients. By sending patients back to centers which may not be able to offer the same level of care as provided in a specialized cancer center such as the JGH Segal Cancer Center, we may very well be affecting not only their quality of life, but their ability to either prolong their lives or find a cure," said Barry D. Stein, President of the CCAC.

"We believe patients have a fundamental right to receive their health care from the physician of their choice and that in matters of cancer which are often life and death, the government may be compromising their chances of survival and their quality of life. This is a matter of government touching on individual freedoms and in this case, for cancer patients, it their fundamental right to life," said Stein.

While it would be great to receive specialized cancer care anywhere in the province, Quebec unfortunately does not have a cancer agency with specialized cancer centers throughout the province as we might find in other provinces such as British Columbia or Ontario. Despite this, the JGH has become a center of choice for colorectal cancer patients and other cancer patients requiring specialized treatment.

"This is actually an opportunity for the Ministry of Health to play a positive role, by recognizing this center and providing it with the necessary resources to meet the additional capacity, and indeed demonstrate that we can have a world-class cancer center available in Quebec for all Quebecers," said Stein.

While the goal of ensuring that people receive medical services close to their home is laudable, no efforts are being expended to ensure the necessary availability of appropriate expertise and equipment in centres where these patients are to be sent to. "For colorectal cancer patients, both the patients and their cancer centers, including the radiation oncology departments, where appropriate, must be consulted first to ensure that patients can receive the standard of care before simply sending patients off-island without such a plan," said Dr. Gerald Batist, Director of the Segal Cancer Center.

"We are about the legal rights of patients to access their care where they choose and not just by their postal code. We are about patient options and partnering with regional hospitals so that cancer patients can safely and effectively blend their care with their local center, but most of all it is about patients receiving the standard of care they require and are entitled to," said Batist.

"Furthermore, this decision undermines the complexity of cancer and radiation treatment and goes against patient choice and their best interests," said Dr. Te Vuong, Director of the Segal Cancer Center's Radiation Oncology Division.

"The colorectal radiation therapy program at the JGH is internationally renowned. 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," Dr. Vuong added.

About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum, is the second-leading cause of cancer death in Canada. Though highly preventable and curable when detected early, an estimated 23,300 Canadians (6,300 in Quebec), will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and approximately 9,200 (2,450 in Quebec) sadly will die from it.

An almost equal number of men and women are affected by colorectal cancer.  One in 13 men and one in 16 women are expected to develop the disease during their lifetime. One in 28 men and one in 32 women will die from it.

About the CCAC

The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada is the country's leading non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of colorectal cancer, supporting patients and advocating for national screening and timely and equal access to effective treatment options to improve patient outcomes.

SOURCE: Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada

For further information:

Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada 
Tel: (514) 875-7745 ext. 228 or

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Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada

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