Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Failing Health Care 101

"Government isotope response inadequate, doctors say." Once again the scientists are hammering away at the credibility of the Harper government in dealing with the isotope shortage. There was $6 million announced by Health Minister Aglukkaq yesterday but it was for long term research purposes. More of that "throwing money at the problem" thing the Conservatives do without, you know, actually helping to solve things.

In the meantime, the price that hospitals are having to pay for isotopes is going up, there's a bit of a bidding war developing now because, of course, supply is limited. So where do stretched hospitals get the money to pay for the price increases? That's what they're asking the government. Apparently all Aglukkaq had to say when asked "repeatedly" about that question yesterday was a talking point, that the federal government had increased transfers to the provinces in the last budget. Choke. Some reaction:
Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine president Jean-Luc Urbain said the federal research dollars are impractical when Canadians need alternative treatments immediately.

“We're in a crisis. We shouldn't be planning to do research that might yield something five years down the road,” he said. “It's health care 101.”
Ah, but don't ask the Harper folk to do "101" anything. Does not compute.

In the absence of Chalk River running, the McMaster reactor is being considered but will take 18 months to get up to being able to substitute for Chalk River. If McMaster is indeed an option, why has it not been pursued until now? Seems like a makeshift solution.

Notably, Linda Keen, the fired former head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, testified yesterday to the Natural Resources Committee about the feasibility of the MAPLES reactors that have been shut down by the Harper government:
Keen told MPs the backup plan to the NRU — a pair of fully-built reactors known as the MAPLEs — could work.
Keen said she believes the technical trouble that prevented AECL from getting the MAPLEs licence for full-time production could be solved.

"We haven't involved international experts enough in this," Keen said.

Just one MAPLE could supply the entire global demand for Moly-99.
Keen is a respected nuclear regulator. Add her to the list of scientists and experts now who have testified before that Committee and who have thrown into serious doubt the merit of the Harper government's decision to mothball those reactors. The committee needs to provide some leadership on that and pursue an investigation of keeping them open. The squeeze is on patients and doctors and they're screaming for leadership...they're certainly not getting it from the Harper government.

For more on this topic, see: Blog Post Index: Medical Isotope crisis & Chalk River shutdown.