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HamiltonRadiation therapists and technicians at the Hamilton Regional Cancer Care Centre have come up with a public sector solution to alleviating the long waiting lists for radiation treatment in their community.
The 230 therapists, technicians and administrative staff who are members of Local 3566 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have signed a letter of intent with the regional cancer centre to work extended hours for a 12-week period, in an effort to clear the backlog of patients waiting for treatment.
This is a viable, public sector alternative, offered under our existing public health system that will benefit all the community. The Ontario Premier and the Health Minister should be apologizing to all Ontarians forced to leave the province for cancer treatment in the U.S., says Sid Ryan, the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Ryan points out that CUPE had put forth the extended hours proposal last April, but the offer was rejected by the then executives of Cancer Care Ontario.
It shows that the provincial cancer care agency was not interested in finding solutions to the backlog or that the administration was incompetent. We challenge the province to compare delivery of the service in both systems. In the end, we believe the public system can provide the treatment faster and cheaper than the private, for-profit operation that has already cost Ontario taxpayers $7 million in start-up costs, says Ryan.
Last Friday (March 2) CUPE and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) filed a complaint under the Canada Health Act and asked Federal Health Minister Allan Rock to shut down the Toronto after-hours radiation clinic. The unions also demanded that provincial Health Minister, Tony Clement, disclose all documents pertaining to the operation of the private, for-profit clinic.
Both levels of government know there is a public sector solution to the backlog in cancer treatment. It is now incumbent on them to ensure that Cancer Care Ontario follow the Hamilton example at all other regional cancer treatment centers, to ensure all cancer patients can get the treatment they need close to home, says Ryan.
In addition to calling on Cancer Care Ontario to use the Hamilton example as a model for other regional cancer centers, Ryan also stressed that recruitment and training of new radiation therapists and radiation technicians must be a priority for the government if a long-term solution to the backlog for treatment is to be found.

For more information please contact:
Sid Ryan, President CUPE Ontario
(416) 209-0066
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications
(416) 578-8774