Saturday, November 21, 2009

Impact of the medical isotope shortage (video)

A video put out by a group called "United for a Secure Stable Supply," advocating for Canadian medical isotope production. From their press release:
The global medical isotope shortage began in May 2009, when Canada announced that its 52-year-old nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ontario, would be closed for repairs for at least three months. But three months later, the government extended the shut-down, telling the world that medical isotope production would not come back on line by the first quarter of 2010 – at the earliest.

Medical isotopes are an important diagnostic tool that allows physicians to better diagnose and treat a multitude of major diseases including cardiac and several types of cancers. Canada is responsible for producing more than half of the medical isotopes in North America and anywhere from 30%-40% of the world’s supply.

Provinces, health care workers and industry leaders across Canada have been working tirelessly to cope with the medical isotope crisis for five months now.

Click on the video link to hear what some of them had to say about the on-going medical isotope shortage and the impact it is having on Canadians and the world.
The government's unwillingness to date to commit to a long term solution and Mr. Harper's off the cuff remark this summer about pulling the plug on isotope production in the long term (beyond 2016) have caused great uncertainty in Canada's nuclear medicine industry. As Dr. Fran├žois Lamoureux put it in the video (here's the translation):
"We did not explain properly to the Canadian population that we were going to prevent access and take away an important advanced technology and knowledge which Canada is the main exporter of…and just how important this is for Canada, how essential it is to Canadian patients and those who relied on us around the world, especially in the United States, Japan and South America who depend on us to supply close to 100% (of their medical isotopes). Now without any warning we abandon them and tell the world that Canada is pulling out and by doing so launched an international crisis which Canada is directly responsible for from the start."
Lisa Raitt's expert panel is supposed to report at the end of this month on this issue that in the meantime is continuing to have an impact on costs for our health care system, practitioners and Canadian patients who are not getting timely nuclear diagnostic treatments.

Glad to have come across this, the reporting on the issue has dropped off as H1N1 preoccupies us medically. This issue is still on the radar screen and remains a major health care failing of the Harper government.