Monday, February 08, 2010

Upcoming isotope shortage in the spotlight

There's a Globe report today that serves as a reminder on the isotope file that there's an upcoming period, February 19th to the end of April, during which two of the major isotope producing reactors in the world will be down.

I have previously written about this upcoming shortage in mid-January and much of that post still applies in terms of the health care consequences and the actions the Harper government could have taken to alleviate this mess. Since that post we have learned that the Chalk River reactor is not going to be ready until some time in April now, when March was the recently contemplated return to service. So instead of a six week time frame without these two major isotope producers, there will now be about ten weeks. If Chalk River gets back online at in April, that is.

What do all these delays mean to patients? A stark reminder:
“So what we are going to see is an increase in the numbers of advanced cardiovascular diseases and advanced cancers in the years to come.”
Here's the newly shuffled Minister of Natural Resources, Christian Paradis with his first cut at trying to explain the government's position:
“The health and safety of Canadians is of the utmost importance and it is imperative that the NRU be brought back online as quickly, and safely, as possible. I speak regularly with AECL [Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.] to ensure everything that can be done, is being done,” Mr. Paradis said when asked about both reactors being put of service.
The predictable statement but it doesn't really help anyone waiting for a nuclear diagnostic test much at all.

It's now been two months since Lisa Raitt's panel on long term solutions weighed in with a call for a new reactor to be built. No word from the government yet in response.

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