November 21, 2018

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CancerCare Manitoba leader expects agency review will benefit patients

The president and CEO of CancerCare Manitoba says she welcomes a study on how life-saving treatments can be delivered more efficiently, noting that the demand for service is predicted to soar in the future.

Dr. Sri Navaratnam said Tuesday she will also insist that whoever wins the Health Department contract for the proposed operational review has experience in the field of cancer.

When it came to light this week that the Progressive Conservatives had put out a request for proposals to look into operating efficiencies for CancerCare Manitoba, the government was immediately accused of looking at ways to cut services, something it has strenuously denied.

Navaratnam said looking for efficiencies is important, given the expected "surge" in demand for cancer treatment due to an aging population and improvements in disease treatment and technology that have prolonged lives.

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The president and CEO of CancerCare Manitoba says she welcomes a study on how life-saving treatments can be delivered more efficiently, noting that the demand for service is predicted to soar in the future.

Dr. Sri Navaratnam said Tuesday she will also insist that whoever wins the Health Department contract for the proposed operational review has experience in the field of cancer.

Dr. Sri Navaratnam, CancerCare Manitoba president and CEO

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Dr. Sri Navaratnam, CancerCare Manitoba president and CEO

When it came to light this week that the Progressive Conservatives had put out a request for proposals to look into operating efficiencies for CancerCare Manitoba, the government was immediately accused of looking at ways to cut services, something it has strenuously denied.

Navaratnam said looking for efficiencies is important, given the expected "surge" in demand for cancer treatment due to an aging population and improvements in disease treatment and technology that have prolonged lives.

"(I) welcome it (the study) and I will participate in it," she said.

With demand for cancer treatment expected to rise sharply, governments will be challenged to boost funding at the same rate, she said.

Navaratnam said, generally, cancer specialists are very good at identifying the best treatment practices and comparing results locally with those across the country and around the world.

There are far fewer benchmarks for how to measure efficiencies — that is, whether organizations such as CancerCare are running their operations as efficiently as in other jurisdictions.

"So, I think anything that will help to sustain our services, to learn more, to learn from other institutions, I do welcome that," Navaratnam said in a joint telephone interview with Health Minister Cameron Friesen.

Friesen rejected the notion that the proposed operational review is a "value for money exercise." He said that looking for efficiencies "is not the enemy of funding; it is the vehicle of funding," in that savings can be plowed back into areas of greatest need to reduce wait times and cope with increases in patient volume.

Friesen said while it's true the government asked CancerCare last fiscal year to find $2.5 million in operating efficiencies — it was able to find $3 million — funding for cancer treatment has steadily increased. This has come at a time when the federal government is covering a declining percentage of the province's total health-care costs, he added.

According to the province's request for proposals, the government hopes to announce the awarding of the consulting contract by Jan. 25. It expects a final report 12 weeks after that.

Asked whether the study would be carried out by accountants or health experts, Navaratnam said a background in the cancer field is a necessity.

"I did really ensure in the selection criteria that whoever we select should have experience in cancer, because cancer service is very complicated," she said.

"I'm really making sure as a CEO, and for cancer patients, that it is done by the right people."

CancerCare Manitoba is the provincially mandated agency responsible for strategic planning and clinical services for cancer patients.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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