Cancer patients protest cost of medication
TORONTO - A group of cancer patients angry over the massive out-of-pocket expenses they pay for unfunded treatments stood up and turned their backs on Health Minister George Smitherman on Saturday as he spoke about his government's commitment to medicare.
About 25 protesters wore shirts bearing the slogans "Cancer patients need a credit card'' and "Where did medicare go?'' at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new home for patients with terminal illnesses at Toronto's Trillium Health Centre.
Protest organizer Roman Gawur said Ontario ranks ninth out of ten provinces for the amount of funding it puts toward cancer drugs.
Gawur said that while he supports the new palliative care home, he thinks the government should also be investing in people who have the chance to live longer.
Some patients are even going bankrupt simply trying fund the cost of their treatment, he said.
"They're spending anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 for medically necessary drugs to be injected in the hospital, which is a violation of the Canada Health Act,'' he said.
"There are just a lot of folks here who are really struggling to pay for something that should be covered by the government.''
Gawur, 57, had to pay $2,700 every two weeks while he was undergoing treatment.
One of the protesters, who would only identify himself as J. Teotonio, said he has spent over $40,000 on cancer drugs that aren't funded by the Ontario government.
Teotonio travels to Buffalo every week for injections of a drug that isn't available in Canada.
Fellow protester Ivo Camilleri said cancer patients in Ontario shouldn't have to go to other provinces or countries to get proper treatment.
"I'm 73 years old. I have three children. Why should I have to leave my home here, away from my three children with their families and my grandchildren just to stay alive?'' he asked.
"I think that is most unfair.''