The provincial election campaign is showing promising signs for Kamloops, by way of local cancer treatment.
As Kamloops-area residents in need of cancer treatment have often been forced to travel for such care, B.C.’s two political parties leading in the polls each pledged investments over the last two days to remedy the situation — mirroring a promise that was never fulfilled in the early 1990s.
On Tuesday (Oct. 6), incumbent MLAs in the Kamloops South- and North-Thompson ridings, Todd Stone and Peter Milobar, announced $5 million in funding for cancer treatment if their B.C. Liberal Party wins the Oct. 24 election.
On Wednesday, the B.C. NDP followed up with a promise of its own — a new cancer centre in Kamloops.
In front of the Terry Fox Memorial in Vancouver, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan said a re-elected NDP government would work with BC Cancer and health authorities to launch a 10-year cancer action plan, including new cancer centres in Kamloops and Nanaimo.
B.C. NDP North-Thompson candidate Sadie Hunter called the announcement “monumental.”
“It’s a really critical investment in Kamloops,” she said.
Hunter said her grandmother, who recently died from lung cancer in Northern British Columbia, was forced to travel for treatment — a situation known too well by Kamloops residents who travel to Kelowna for treatment.
“On top of already dealing with the tremendous impact of an illness, it creates a lot of extra stress and makes it difficult for families to be supportive,” Hunter said. “The travel is a required component, so this is monumental for the residents of Kamloops and the Kamloops area, in terms of providing good comprehensive care.”
Asked for additional details on the NDP promise, such as timelines and cost, Hunter said the Kamloops cancer centre would be “one of the first ones to hit the ground” under the NDP’s 10-year cancer care plan.
On Tuesday, meanwhile, the B.C. Liberals announced plans to invest $5-million into cancer care in Kamloops.
Stone said five radiation machines in Kelowna’s cancer centre are coming to the end of their useful life and need to be replaced soon. He said two of those radiation machines — which are called linear accelerators — are used predominately by residents of Kamloops and its surrounding area.
Stone said his party’s plan would be to ensure that, when those machines are in need of replacing, at least two of them would be replaced and located in Kamloops. The move would not impact negatively Kelowna cancer care, but more accurately reflect needs of Kamloops and the surrounding area, Stone said.
“You think of the thousands of patients that every single month have to drive three or four times a week, five hours a day, to and back from Kelowna,” he said. “To not have to worry about that anymore and receive those services in Kamloops, that would just make such a dramatic improvement to the quality of those people’s lives, while going through what is already a very difficult health challenge.”
Stone said it is “very interesting” that the B.C. NDP announced its plan for a cancer centre in Kamloops one day after the B.C. Liberals’ announcement to improve local cancer care.
He pointed to a broken promise by the New Democrats in 1991, at which time he noted the party pledged a cancer clinic, but never followed through on that promise upon winning that year’s provincial election.
“People of Kamloops have long memories,” Stone said, noting the cancer centre was ultimately built in Kelowna. “One month ago, John Horgan announced a $10-million investment in the cancer centre in Kelowna — for PET and CT scanners — and made no mention of any intention of investing one dollar of enhanced cancer service in Kamloops. I think in light of everything else that’s happened through this campaign and the history on the cancer file in Kamloops, I don’t think there’s many people in this city that are going to trust John Horgan and take him at his word that he will actually follow through with his commitment.”
Hunter noted a cancer centre did not come to fruition in Kamloops during the province’s 16 years under a B.C. Liberal government, either. Asked what should make Kamloops residents believe a cancer centre would materialize under a B.C. NDP government this time, Hunter touted her party’s investment in primary urgent care clinics over the last three years, including one at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.
She added that, while the hospital’s under-construction, $417-million patient-care tower was a B.C. Liberal promise, it was built under the B.C. NDP government.
“The NDP government has a really good track record so far,” Hunter said.
— with a file from the Vancouver Sun