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Comment: My friend Ray vs. the B.C. medical system

A commentary by a resident of Esquimalt.
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The lack of a family doctor caused a cancer patient to end up in the emergency ward, where it became clear the health system is woefully unable to provide timely and preventative care, Mike Nugent writes. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

I write this letter to address the totally unacceptable and frankly appalling wait times for medical care and treatment for my good friend Ray, 63 years old, of Victoria.

Ray’s story started in November 2021 when, shortly after losing his family doctor, he started having abdominal pains. After a delay in diagnosis due to lack of a family physician and no continuity in care between the walk-in clinics and the emergency departments, Ray finally received, on July 6, 2022, the results of a CT scan showing “probable cancer in the gallbladder and 3 lesions on the liver.”

After more delays Ray was advised on Aug. 22 that his latest MRI indicated more tumours in his liver and that surgery which had been scheduled for late August was no longer an option and instead a referral to the cancer clinic was made. Ray was to call the clinic in two weeks if he hadn’t heard from them.

On Sept. 9, after several phone calls, Ray was told that it would be about another month until an initial appointment. Ray had now been experiencing extreme abdominal pain and started calling the cancer clinic almost daily.

Desperately ill, Ray went to Jubilee Emergency on Sept. 26 and received the news described in the heartbreaking note below which he sent out to his friends.

“I took a trip to emergency on Monday seeing the most caring nurses and doctors. The doctors were appalled that after 5 weeks we still had not heard from the cancer clinic and they decided to advocate for me. They ordered a new CT scan and called the cancer clinic directly speaking to a medical oncologist and basically said that they would not release me until there was a plan in place, and what the next steps would be.

“Unfortunately, the news was not good. The cancer clinic is so overwhelmed with waiting patients that they are triaging those that can be cured as the highest priority, and I do not fall into that category. The oncologist was familiar with my file and said that they felt treatment would only extend my life 3 months. He did make some suggestions on different medications that would keep me more comfortable, and the ER Doctor prescribed them before we left.

“I really feel my story could have been a lot different if I had a family doctor who knew all my family history.” (Ray had family history of gallbladder cancer)

“What I would like from all of you is to join the fight and advocate for our collapsing health care system.”

“Your friend Ray.”

The delays from November 2021 to June 2022 were detrimental to Ray, but the non-communication from the cancer clinic that they had decided not to treat him, and instead led him to believe they would be in contact, was devastating.

Ray found the medical practitioners sincere in their desire to help him, however their hands were tied by a system overwhelmed with demand and beleaguered in its ability to supply timely medical care. Ray and his family are now focusing on the time they have left together.

B.C. health care has been declining for 30 years and we know it will take time for the system to recover, but the province of B.C. must make it their top priority and the B.C. citizens need to hear about a comprehensive plan and progress reports.

My good friend Ray deserved better than this, as do all British Columbians.

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