Cancer patient fears lack of focus with health-care system strained by COVID-19
The sometimes confusing world of health care is a landscape Robin McGee is familiar with. After she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, she detailed her journey in her award-winning book, ‘The Cancer Olympics,’ which was aimed at helping other patients understand the system.
But when cancer returned for the third time, just days ago, she knew the battle was going to be more difficult than ever before.
“I think this COVID-19 brings a whole new level of terror and despair to an already terrible situation,” she told CTV News.
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With the world swallowed by a pandemic, how do patients struggling with other life-threatening conditions or illnesses get the care they need?
McGee, who is a registered clinical psychologist, says she couldn’t reach physicians or get appointments to begin treatment at first as offices closed and resources shifted to dealing with the spreading virus.
She has since received a call assuring her that her case was being looked at, but the initial uncertainty was still paralyzing. She feels for patients diagnosed for the first time who may fear being overlooked due to the global crisis.
“If the health system is ultimately overwhelmed by COVID-19 and there's no path forward, that's the worry of patients,” McGee said.
Some of the pressure points are starting to show in the system. The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia announced on Friday that they would be restricting refills of prescriptions so a patient would only be able to get up to 30 days refilled at a time. The decision was made, they said, due to the risk of drug shortages potentially caused by panicking civilians stockpiling essential medication due to the pandemic.
While acknowledging pressures on care delivery in Nova Scotia, where McGee lives, health leaders insist cancer care continues much as it had before.
“Cancer surgery, cancer treatment and investigations is one of the areas that they are focusing on and preserving while they do a whole bunch of other things to build capacity in the health care system to deal with COVID-19,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Health Officer for Nova Scotia.
McGee believes there still needs to be more communication between the province and cancer patients. Her suggestion is to make a dedicated webpage communicating with non-coronavirus patients to let them know how health care providers are processing their concerns.
“Maybe have a website or a link or some way of reaching those patients to say we see you, we hear you, you are in the queue for services we will get to you when we can get to you,” she said.