BC health care: clinic offers cancer screenings for unattached patients

A Victoria-based clinic is trying to tackle an issue faced by many British Columbians – creating easier access to cancer screenings for unattached patients, or those without a family doctor.

CanScreenBC is based in Victoria, but offers virtual health-care services across the province. The clinic is run by Dr. Stuart Bax and Dr. Cal Shapiro, who noticed a recurring pattern with patients–many had never had a cancer screening before, or hadn’t accessed one in years.

“By that point, the more the cancer progresses, the harder it is going to be treated and hopefully cured,” Bax told CTV News.

The clinic offers screenings for lung, breast and colon cancers, with plans to include pap tests. Bax said CanScreenBC will also offer longitudinal care for patients who are diagnosed with the disease.

“I think the big thing that’s been lost over the last few years, for the unattached patients in particular, is that continuity of care,” he said. “What we want to try and spread the word is that you can have continuity even without attachments.”

Around one million people in BC do not have a family doctor, which can make accessing cancer screening challenging. Vancouver city councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung’s doctor retired a few years ago. Since then, she hasn’t been able to receive a mammogram. Kirby-Yung said she was told she couldn’t book an appointment because she didn’t have a doctor to send the results to.

“That kind of ended up in this perpetuating cycle where I would get the reminders that ‘Hey you haven’t booked your mammogram,’ and then I wasn’t able to book because they said there was nowhere to send the results to,” she said.

In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Health said, “anytime people can get access to screening quicker, it’s a good thing.”

In February, the province announced a 10-year plan to expand cancer care for BC’s aging and growing population. The provincial government also announced a $440 million investment in improving screening, treatment and research.

“Primary care plays a critical role in encouraging and enabling patients to participate in cancer screening programs,” the province’s plan says.

The province previously told CTV News people have several ways to access a cancer screening referral, including going to an urgent or primary care center, a walk-in clinic or speaking with a nurse practitioner.

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