Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Taking their eye off the ball

A letter to the editor that reminds us of the costs of the excessive partisan focus of the Harper government, playing itself out now across the board:
What do two cups of coffee and your life have in common? That's the cost per Canadian for the physical repair of the Chalk River medical isotope facility, according to expert testimony on Parliament Hill this week. However, rather than spending what amounts to pocket change today to help the sick, Minister Lisa Raitt said roll the dice and Prime Minister Harper said cancel it -- guaranteeing excessive suffering and premature deaths for thousands of Canadians, because his focus is elsewhere. Rather than providing good management, the Harper government has undertaken the largest pork barrel spending spree in Canadian history by diverting most of the multi-billion dollar economic stimulus package to Conservative ridings -- even to the extent of feeding Conservative caucus members' companies (Senator Leo Housakos). Harper's focus is plainly pork barrel spending and not responsible leadership.

Furthering that point this week, testimony before a Commons Committee by President of the Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine Jean Luc Urbain on the coming health impacts of the Chalk River shutdown:
The shortage of medical isotopes caused by the shutdown of the Chalk River nuclear reactor will lead to a surge in advanced cases of cancer and heart disease as doctors struggle to perform early diagnoses.

This was the warning Jean-Luc Urbain, president of the Canadian Society of Nuclear Medicine, gave to a committee of MPs studying the shutdown of the government owned reactor.

"We are not necessarily going to see the effect of the shortage of isotopes today, but we'll see it six months down the road, a year down the road, two years down the road," said Urbain.

"We're certainly going to see a lot of patients with advanced cardiac disease, advanced coronary artery disease, advanced cancer."
Why? Lack of nuclear diagnostics to detect such diseases:
“Over the past six months, we went back in time and we practise now nuclear medicine the way I was practising in the 1980s,” Dr. Jean-Luc Urbain, president of the Canadian Nuclear Medicine Association, told MPs on the committee.

“So we went from a 21st-century type of service to a 20th-century type of service.”
And in other news, as mentioned in Eugene's letter, it's going to cost $70 million to do that Chalk River repair work, Chalk River having shut down twice now under Harper's watch. A necessary price to pay for a vital medical facility in comparison to how this government is spending money elsewhere, focussing on its real priorities.