Push for PET scanner continues
By: Carol Mulligan - Sudbury Star
| October 24, 2013 - 6:22 AM
It was good news for the Sam Bruno PET Steering Committee the day before its fourth annual fundraising gala.
Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath rose Wednesday during Question Period and asked why the Liberals won't fund a positron emission tomography scanner for the Northeast.
What is four or five million dollars after wasting a billion dollars on the so-called gas plant scandal, Horwath wanted to know.
A PET scan is used widely to diagnose and stage treatment for cancer and heart disease, and is available in most areas of Ontario, but not in northeastern Ontario.
Sam Bruno was an award-winning Sudbury salesman who died of colorectal cancer three years ago at age 55. He fought for two years for improved access to PET scanning and to have a PET scanner located in the region.
Horwath attended last year's PET gala, but wasn't available to attend Thursday night. Bringing the subject up in Question Period on Wednesday was the next best thing.
The NDP leader mentioned the efforts of two Sudbury girls, Ava, 8, and Alyssa, 10, Derro, who cut their long hair this week to raise money for the cause championed by Sam Bruno, their cousin. They will present the money they raised at the gala.
Horwath said the community has rallied around the Bruno family, but the Liberals refuse to acknowledge the "physical hardship" that having to travel to other parts of Ontario for a PET scan puts on people who are ill.
Her party does, and it has promised to install a PET scanner in Sudbury should the NDP be elected.
Where a PET scanner is on Health Sciences North's priority list is not clear. When contacted, spokesman Dan Lessard outlined HSN's position on acquiring a PET scanner.
The capital cost of the scanner, once estimated at $3.5 million, is now $5 million, said Lessard. In 2010, it was estimated that a PET scanner would incur an operating deficit of $600,000, based on 610 people receiving a scan.
Figures from the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario show 365 people from northeastern Ontario got PET scans in 2010. Based on those numbers, the operating deficit would likely be larger than first estimated, Lessard said.
"The requirements and the challenges are substantial; however, HSN remains committed to acquiring PET scan technology, both as a diagnostic and research tool for our patients. A viable business case is the greatest barrier and one we need to address for a successful submission to the government."
Horwath said no doubt more doctors would order a PET scan and more residents would seek one in the northeast if the diagnostic test were available here.
More than 20,000 residents signed a petition, launched before Sam Bruno died, calling for a PET scanner in northeastern Ontario. Horwath recognizes the cause is about more than a piece of diagnostic equipment. It's become a symbol of being "treated as second- class citizens when it comes to access to decent health care," she said.
Health and Long-Term Care Minister Deb Matthews said she gets that a PET scanner has "become of symbolic importance that somehow Sudbury isn't good enough. Nothing could be further from the truth," said the minister in a telephone interview.
Only five cities in Ontario -- To ro n t o, Hamilton, London, Ottawa and Thunder Bay-- have PET scanners, so most Ontarians have to travel to have a PET scan, she said.
A certain volume of patients is required to justify the cost of operating a PET scanner and Sudbury only has about one-quarter that number, said Matthews.
"It's a matter of putting your money ... where it's going to have the most benefit for patients and, if you do get a PET scanner, it means you might not be able to do an MRI. There are tradeoffs."
Sam Bruno would be angry at lack of PET scanner, brother says
By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life
| Oct 24, 2013 - 9:15 PM
If Sam Bruno were alive today and saw that his family and friends are still fundraising to purchase a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner for the northeast, he'd be angry, his brother said.
The Sudbury man, who died from colorectal cancer in 2010, fought for PET scans to become a service that's covered under OHIP.
When he won that battle, he started advocating for the government to fund a PET scanner for the northeast, saying it's difficult for sick and frail people to travel to Southern Ontario for the test.
After his death, family, friends and community members took up the torch, and started fundraising to purchase the equipment.
He'd be angry at the government, that they ignore the 30,000 people on a petition, that they ignore the fact that they did not give fair and equitable access to the citizens of the northeast, Frank Bruno said.
He made the remarks at the fourth annual PET scan dinner and fundraising gala, which was held Oct. 24 at the Caruso Club.
Between latest the dinner and individual donations at the event, Bruno estimated more than $450,000 has now been raised for to purchase a PET scanner.
However, PET scanners cost at least $2 million, and the province has never promised to fund operating costs. Bruno said he'd probably be able to persuade large companies to make large donations if operating costs were covered.
PET scanners are a powerful diagnostic tool to detect cancer and optimize the management of cancer treatments.
In addition to cancer studies, PET scans are used in cardiology studies to measure damaged heart tissue and in neurology to identify brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Epilepsy.
On top of the fact there's no PET scanner in the northeast the only region in Ontario where there isn't one Bruno said he's annoyed by the restricted nature of who can get a publicly-insured PET scan in the province.
People have headaches, for goodness sakes, and they go and get CAT scans, Bruno said. We just want to be the same access to a PET scan as a CAT scan.
While Sam Bruno would be angry his dream hasn't yet come true, his brother said he'd likely be heartened to see that the community is committed to bringing a PET scanner to the northeast.
Among the donors who stepped up at the fundraising dinner were Alyssa Derro, 10, and her sister Ava Derro, 8, who recently raised more than $1,700 by canvassing door-to-door.
The girls' mother, Diana Derro, was Sam Bruno's first cousin. Their donation was matched Nortrax Canada Inc., where their father, Dean Derro, works.
The St. James Catholic Elementary School students also cut off their hair as part of the initiative. Their hair will be used to make a wig for a child going through chemotherapy.
Alyssa told those at the dinner Sam Bruno is her hero, as are all of the people who have raised money for the cause.
One of the people who has fought to bring a PET scanner to northeastern Ontario is Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas.
She said Health Minister Deb Matthews is still using the same excuses for not providing the funding she has since the beginning.
Specifically, Matthews is saying there's no wait list for PET scans in the south, there's not enough people in the northeast to justify it, and Health Sciences North has to find the operating dollars in their own budget.
But Gélinas said she feels Matthews isn't as confident about these arguments as she used to be. She equates the situation to the fight to bring a cancer treatment centre to Sudbury.
Now that we have it, we see the difference it has made to the people of Sudbury, Gélinas said.
People who would never considered treatment before are now having treatment, getting better. You have to go through the same hurdles (for the PET scanner).