Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Foreign Policy magazine: "Blame Canada" for isotope shortage

A leading American publication offers a critical piece on Canada's bungling of the isotope crisis: "The Missing Element." It tells the tale of how the world came to rely on Canada for isotopes, mainly from the U.S. perspective. The Harper government comes in for some not so subtle criticism:
The government's handling of the isotope debacle has been a front-page political story in Canada, particularly after Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt was caught on tape describing it as a "sexy" issue that she wanted to resolve to further her political career. Raitt later issued a tearful public apology to cancer patients.
Why yes, it has been a debacle, couldn't have put it better myself.

Their summation? It's an epitaph moment for the Harper government:
In any event, Canada's days as a leader in medical isotopes seem to be over. The Natural Resource Ministry's panel recommended the construction of a brand-new multipurpose research reactor, though given the emergency measures that other countries are taking -- the Netherlands and Australia are also looking to boost their production capacity -- it's not clear that there will still be a market by the time it is completed.

In June, Harper said, "Eventually, we anticipate Canada will be out of the business" of producing medical isotopes -- a realization that patients around the world might have wished for a decade ago.
All that good will and nuclear leadership over fifty years that saw Canada become a world leader in this technology...it took the Harper government just a few years to waste it all through their negligence and lack of planning.

And still no government reaction to the delivery of their panel's report over two weeks ago. I suppose if there's a prorogation, that'll be pushed back months too.

In the meantime, as the Foreign Policy report notes:
In Canadian hospitals, which were almost entirely dependent on domestic technetium supplies and are already feeling the pinch, some nuclear-medicine practitioners report canceling the majority of their diagnostics, and tests for heart damage and the spread of cancers have been delayed for weeks, with untold financial and health costs.
That is the ultimate tragedy of this fundamental health care failure.