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Saturday, April 13, 2024
Opinion: It’s time OHIP covered PSA tests for prostate cancer

The Ontario legislature last week unanimously approved a private member's motion to have OHIP cover all PSA tests for prostate cancer. The motion was sponsored by Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates.

Wayne Gates

Special to The Lake Report

This year it is estimated more than 1,500 men will die of prostate cancer in Ontario.

Yet we know that if diagnosed early enough there is almost a 100 per cent chance of survival for those who have prostate cancer.

Residents in Ontario can get an early warning of this disease by having their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels tested early – but in many cases, they must pay for this test out of their own pocket unless they are already diagnosed with prostate cancer or a test is ordered by a doctor.

So why is this life saving PSA testing not covered by OHIP? In an era when residents are falling on hard times, more and more residents are forgoing this test to ensure that they can pay their bills at home. 

Never before has it been more important for OHIP to cover the cost of PSA testing for every person who wants one. 

Here’s the thing: saving lives should be enough to enact this policy right away but when you dive deeper into the policy its benefits become undeniable.

A late-stage prostate cancer diagnosis costs the province on average $66,000 more per patient than if they caught the cancer early. Furthermore, estimates tell us that one in nine men will get prostate cancer in their lifetimes.

At a time when we’re facing unacceptable overcrowding in hospitals, early detection can mean people avoid late-stage diagnosis and thus don’t ever need to seek out late-stage care in our hospitals.

While this is not, and should not, be the solution to people receiving medical care in our hallways instead of in hospital rooms, it’s one part of a comprehensive plan we need to fix the shameful overcrowding of our hospitals. 

So we know this policy would save money, save lives and help stop overcrowding in our hospitals. Beyond that, we can clearly see that Ontario is lagging behind our fellow provinces and territories.

PSA testing is already covered by the provincial health programs in eight provinces and three territories. Yet, here in our riding there are community golf tournaments being held where the money collected is going to pay for PSA testing for those who cannot afford it.

Since when did a Canadian’s access to health care depend on their ability to access charity? Why is it that other provincial governments have stepped up to cover this cost, yet here in Niagara it’s our charities that are filling that role?   

Simply put, this a straightforward policy that makes sense.

I am proud to say that our team worked across the aisle and that this motion was accepted unanimously by the Legislature.

Unfortunately, this does not mean it comes into force right away. Motions must still be enacted by the government even when they are passed by the members.

We’re happy we’ve made it this far but now we must turn to ensuring that Premier Doug Ford actually implements this policy. 

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