Cancer test wait frustrates Kenora man

A Kenora man is upset with the province, after travelling to Thunder Bay for a cancer test he says could have been done in Winnipeg.

Wes Bland hoped to get PET scan in Winnipeg, where his oncologist works

A Kenora man is upset with the province, after travelling to Thunder Bay for a cancer test he says could have been done in Winnipeg.

Wes Bland said he’s felt jerked around since August, when his family doctor sent him to an oncologist in Winnipeg.

He was told the tumour could be removed, but he needed the PET (positron emission tomography) scan first.

Wes Bland was diagnosed with lung cancer in late August, and recently underwent a test to determine whether it has spread to his lymph nodes. (Adam Burns/CBC)

He waited two weeks for the hospital in Winnipeg to book him an appointment. But that never materialized.

"Two weeks is long enough for my thinking, so ... I called Winnipeg. And Winnipeg said they ... [had to] get permission from Ontario to carry on with this PET scan I need,” he said.

Instead, he found out the appointment had been scheduled in Thunder Bay. Kenora is 209 km (two hours, 19 minutes) from Winnipeg, and 489 km (five hours, 30 minutes) from Thunder Bay.

'Time is passing'

Bland and his wife contacted their MPP, New Democrat Sarah Campbell.

She said they weren't the only ones to complain about cancer care.

"I've had between five and 10 people in the past four weeks, which is very, very high,” Campbell said.

"Previous to that, we had not been receiving any concerns about people receiving cancer care services in Winnipeg.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said in an email she couldn't comment on a specific case, but that Ontario does cover out-of-province PET scans under certain conditions.

CBC News asked Michael Gravelle, MPP for Thunder Bay-Superior North, to comment on this story. Gravelle said he hadn't previously heard of Bland's case.

"I don't understand the basis on which the problem's occurred for him," said Gravelle, "But I understand he's had some challenges with accessing the [cancer care] program."

Gravelle said he contacted the Ministry of Health to ask about the situation.

"The Ministry of Health very much confirmed to me what I already knew to be the case, which was the reciprocal billing arrangement [with] the province of Manitoba," he said.

"But it becomes difficult for me to comment on this, when I do not know the reason why Mr. Bland was put in that situation."

In the meantime, Bland remains frustrated.

"Time is passing, and I don't think cancer stops for too many people,” Bland said.

"It's like me kneeling down on the ground ... two provinces with their gun[s] to my head. I'm dying, and they're figuring out which one's gonna shoot.”

Here is the full email from Samantha Grant, press secretary for Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care:

I cannot comment on specific cases. In general, given the proximity of many northern Ontarians to Manitoba, we know that many seek treatment or are referred for treatment in Manitoba. Ontario and Manitoba have a reciprocal billing agreement. If an Ontario patient meets the condition for an OHIP-insured service that is available in Ontario, these procedures are also funded for Ontario residents in Manitoba.
A PET scan is considered an insured OHIP service when rendered for the indications listed below:
1.            Solitary pulmonary nodule
2.            Thyroid cancer
3.            Germ cell tumour
4.            Colorectal cancer
5.            Lymphoma
6.            Non-small cell lung cancer
7.            Limited disease small cell lung cancer
8.            Esophogial carcinoma
9.            Metastatic squamous cell carcinoma – evaluation of neck nodes
10.          Liver metastasis from colorectal cancer
11.          Staging nasopharyngeal carcinoma


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.