PET scanner good fit for cancer centre: Union
By Carol Mulligan, Sudbury Star
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 12:39:58 EST AM
United Steelworkers Local 6500 stepped up when a cancer centre was being built in Sudbury two decades ago, starting off community fundraising with a $50,000 donation. It donated tens of thousands of dollars more to build the centre.
Now the union local has given a large contribution toward a piece of diagnostic equipment its president says will help the cancer centre better serve people in Sudbury and northeastern Ontario.
The union has donated $65,000 to the Sam Bruno PET Steering Committee to help it meet its goal of raising $3.5 million for a positron emission tomography scanner to be installed in Sudbury.
USW Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said a PET scanner is an important tool to have because "it detects cancer, it detects cardiovascular and other disorders."
Sudbury is the hub of cancer services in the northeast. "Why wouldn't we have a PET scanner here? It's really hard to understand," Bertrand said Tuesday.
The union local made the large donation to mark the fifth annual Sam Bruno PET Gala, held last month. The event was established in honour of the late Sam Bruno, who died in 2010 of colorectal cancer after launching a campaign to have a PET scanner located in the North.
A PET scan helps reveal how tissues and organs function. It uses a radioactive tracer that collects in areas of the body with higher levels of chemical activity, showing up as bright spots useful in diagnosing and staging cancers, heart disease and brain disorders.
Residents of northeastern Ontario suffer from cancer and heart disease in larger numbers than average and the mortality rate is high from both.
USW Local 6500 members are among those statistics and few haven't been touched by cancer, said Bertrand. Just three weeks ago, a relative of one of the union's executive members had to travel to Toronto for a PET scan.
"People shouldn't have to drive to Toronto, especially when they're ill," said Bertrand.
Steelworkers were instrumental in getting what is now known as the Northern Cancer Centre built, and were among the hundreds of Sudburians who lobbied for a cancer centre here so northerners wouldn't have to travel for cancer treatment. A PET scanner would be a great fit for the centre, said Bertrand.
Brenda Tessaro is spokeswoman for the Sam Bruno PET Steering Committee and she couldn't agree more with Bertrand.
Committee members were overwhelmed with the donation from USW Local 6500 and other community organizations and members this year. They helped the committee raise $155,000 at the gala, the most in its history.
That brings to $650,000 the amount of money raised by the group for the sophisticated diagnostic tool.
Tessaro said she believes the large number of donations, and the size of some of them, reflects frustration with the "inequity" of health care services in the Northeast.
The region has the highest cancer death rate and one of the highest cardiac death rates in Ontario, yet is the only area of the province not to have a PET scanner, said Tessaro.
The committee maintains a PET scanner would reduce rising health care costs by eliminating the need for unnecessary tests and surgeries, shortening hospital stays and reducing the millions of dollars spent on the Northern Health Travel Grant Program every year.
The Bruno PET Committee is encouraged by the fact Health and Long-Term Care Minister Eric Hoskins has agreed to meet with two New Democrat MPPs, Nickel Belt's France Gelinas and Sudbury's Joe Cimino, to discuss the PET scanner issue.
Tessaro hopes that, because Hoskins is a physician, he will have a better perspective on how a PET scanner could save health care dollars.
Bertrand said his union's donation sent a strong message to the community about the importance of a PET scanner to the Northeast.
"You read it every day," said Bertrand of deaths by cancer and cardiac disease in the region. "You read the obituaries, you could be as young as 10 and as old as 80."
His union donated the money from the one cent an hour contribution its 2,650 members give through payroll deductions.
As happy as Local 6500 is to support the PET cause, Bertrand doesn't think it should have to do that.
"I don't see that the Bruno family should have to have this gala each and every year. This should be an automatic from the government to get the PET scanner here in northeastern Ontario. We're not second-class citizens here and we do have the facilities to have that PET scanner," he said.
Tessaro points to Health Sciences North's five-year strategic plan that lists patient-centred care as one of its priorities.
"So if we're looking at patient-focused and patient-centred care, we need to look at these extremely ill people having to take these trips down to Toronto.
"If this is one of (HSN's) strategic priorities, let's start with the PET scanner and have people dealt with here."
Column: Northerners deserve equal medical service
By Carol Mulligan, Sudbury Star
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 2:31:47 EDT AM
Twelve years ago, residents of northeastern Ontario showed their commitment to a one-site hospital in Sudbury with their cheque books, giving $50 million to a campaign called Heart and Soul.
Since then, there have been missteps, construction boondoggles and two name changes. What has emerged is Health Sciences North, a regional hospital serving 550,000 people in 400,000 square kilometres.
HSN has become an academic hospital affiliated with a medical school, continued to develop an outstanding cancer centre and built upon the reputation of Sudbury as a model of cardiac care.
The hospital has launched a research institute where work to develop vaccines is being conducted.
Still, there's something lacking and it's time it was addressed.
Ontario's northeast is the only area of the province that doesn't have a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, so residents must travel five to 10 hours or more to undergo the gold standard in medical imaging.
PET scanning helps reveal how tissues and organs function. It uses a radioactive tracer that collects in areas of the body with higher levels of chemical activity, showing up as bright spots useful in diagnosing and staging cancers, heart disease and brain disorders.
Northerners, rightly or wrongly, view themselves as over-taxed and under-serviced. Not having a PET scanner has become a symbol of that inequity.
A Sudbury man set out to change that. Salesperson Sam Bruno, suffering from colorectal cancer, first fought to gain wider access to PET scanning. Then, until his dying breath in July 2010, Bruno, 55, led a campaign to have a PET scanner installed in Sudbury.
It's not surprising more than 27,000 people have signed Bruno's petition. Who among us hasn't been touched by cancer?
What is surprising is the indifference of hospital and research officials and most oncologists to the fight for a PET scanner.
The hospital's official position, after a weak cost-benefit analysis, is there aren't enough people in the northeast to support its operating cost.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has been intransigent in its position that there are enough PET scanners in Ontario and that there isn't the money to fund one here.
Using that logic, northerners and others in less densely populated regions would have fewer services than those in the GTA simply because there are fewer of us. That shouldn't be how Ontario works.
The estimated cost to install a PET scanner five years ago was $3.5 million. A committee struck to carry on Bruno's fight has undertaken to raise it.
Last week, the fifth annual Sam Bruno PET Gala raised a staggering $140,000, bringing its total raised to $650,000. Some came in the form of a $65,000 donation from United Steelworkers Local 6500. Another $10,000 came from a cancer survivor who participated in fundraising walks. Another $361 was collected by three of Bruno's grandchildren.
After pitching the cause to a deaf Liberal government for five years, Nickel Belt New Democrat MPP France Gelinas is encouraged about landing a meeting with Health Minister Eric Hoskins, a physician, who may be more receptive to the northeast's PET cause.
But it's time the province stopped resisting 27,000 residents demanding equal treatment from their government.
Northerners opened their wallets 12 years ago to contribute to the cost of a world-class hospital. It's time the government of Ontario stopped stalling and returned the favour.
Steelworkers donate $65K to PET Scanner Fund
By: Jonathan Migneault - Sudbury Northern Life
| Nov 18, 2014 - 1:28 PM
Donation is single largest in fund's four-year history
The United Steelworkers Local 6500 presented a cheque for $65,000 to the Sam Bruno Scanner Fund Tuesday morning.
The donation was the single largest the organization has received since it started its campaign to get Sudbury a PET scanner in 2010.
We're just thrilled, said Brenda Tessaro, a committee member with the Sam Bruno Scanner Fund.
A PET scanner is a medical detection tool used in clinical oncology, to help detect brain diseases, such as various types of dementia, and heart disease. It is also an important research tool to map normal brain and heart functions.
Of the nine machines in Ontario, one is located in Thunder Bay; the rest are in southern and eastern Ontario.
The donation from the United Steelworkers makes 2014 the best year yet for the fundraising campaign, with $155,000 raised.
Since 2010, the committee has collected $650,000 to pay for a PET scanner. The device costs nearly $4 million.
The province will not cover the capital costs to purchase a PET scanner, but will pay most of the operational costs once one it's up and running.
United Steelworkers Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand said ideally the province would pay for the medical device, but added the $65,000 donation was the least the Steelworkers could do to help the cause.
We can't put a number on people's lives, he said. No one should be driving down south, and especially when they're ill.
The fund was named in honour of Sam Bruno, who lost his battle with cancer in 2010, and was a strong advocate for a PET scanner in northeastern Ontario.