Lack of cancer scanner in Sudbury a key issue with...
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Feb 04, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Lack of cancer scanner in Sudbury a key issue with voters

Convoys of Liberal and NDP staff heading north for Sudbury byelection as cancer patients are forced to come south for PET scans

OurWindsor.Ca

Convoys of Liberal and NDP staff from Toronto streamed north to get their voters to the polls Thursday in a high-stakes Sudbury byelection, where a key issue concerns sick patients forced to travel south for cancer scans.

In the last few years, local activists have raised $650,000 toward a PET scanner — short for positron emission technology — used to diagnose and stage cancers and heart disease, among other things.

“The thought of driving from Sudbury to Toronto, let alone in the middle of winter, is very stressful,” said New Democrat MPP France Gélinas, of the adjacent riding of Nickel Belt and her party’s health critic.

The Liberal government, which hopes to regain Sudbury from the NDP in what polls suggest is a close race between the two parties, has long maintained there are not enough patients in northeastern Ontario to justify the multi-million dollar cost of a machine there, leaving patients to make the eight-hour round trip.

But Health Minister Eric Hoskins is awaiting a new recommendation from a steering committee of medical experts on what to do — possibly involving regular trips north using a mobile PET scanner in its own trailer.

“Everyone deserves access to quality health care no matter where they live . . . . I’m committed to continuing to work with Sudbury on this issue,” he said in a statement.

Windsor radiologist Dr. Kevin Tracey, who has a mobile scanner operating under the Independent Health Facilities Act, has been lobbying to take it on the road to Sudbury and elsewhere on a regular basis.

“We think we can do this without a significant impact on the public finances, or even a net benefit, given the Northern Ontario travel allowance patients get,” he said in an interview.

“It would be a slam dunk for the Liberals politically.”

Sudbury Liberal candidate Glenn Thibeault, who recently quit Parliament as the city’s New Democrat MP to run in the byelection, said he supports a PET scanner.

“We can keep people at home,” noted Thibeault, who’s up against NDP candidate Suzanne Shawbonquit, independent Andrew Olivier, Progressive Conservative Paula Peroni and the Green Party’s David Robinson.

While the local hospital, Health Sciences North, would like a PET scanner, officials are leery of the operating and up-front costs of a built-in model or renovations to link a mobile one to the building so patients don’t have to go outside.

“We’re just not in a position to absorb that” given a tight budget, spokesman Dan Lessard told the Star.

Shawbonquit agreed the hospital is in a “tight spot” but said it’s hard for Sudbury to call itself “the cancer centre of the north” without a PET scanner.

Having a mobile scanner come to Sudbury on a rotating basis would not guarantee that patients could avoid trips to Toronto for scans, depending on how urgent the need, Lessard added.

“That’s something for the province to work out.”

Toronto Star

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