box10.gif (1299 bytes)







Diagnostic imaging

Reconsider Maple reactors, doctors urge

SASKATOON – The federal government has bungled the medical isotopes file, the Canadian Medical Association’s outgoing president says. “The federal government didn’t play the role it should have played there,” Dr. Robert Ouellet (pictured) said during the CMA’s annual conference, in Saskatoon, after the association passed motions urging the government to re-enter the isotope business.

“There was a warning a year-and-a-half ago when the Chalk River reactor went wrong. They didn’t provide any views on what will come in the future. And this reactor is 53 years old.”

The government’s decisions on reactors have been made “for financial reasons,” Dr. Ouellet charged, and did not fully consider the effects on patient care. The association demanded that the federal government retain a leading role in providing medical isotopes for the world and reconsider a decision to back away from isotope production.

Delegates at the CMA’s annual meeting in Saskatoon passed five motions they hope will help turn around a shortage of medical radioisotopes for diagnostic tests.

As one of the motions, the CMA is demanding the government appoint an international expert panel to review the decision to abandon Chalk River’s Maple I and II research reactors, which were to have replaced the troubled National Research Universal (NRU) reactor.

Speaking about the lack of Canadian-produced medical isotopes, Dr. Ouellet said: “The federal government must be made accountable for this. They lacked foresight, and of course right now there’s a shortage, and there will be additional costs for everyone.”

The Chalk River reactor, which is currently shut down until at least early 2010 due to a heavy water leak, supplied nearly a third of the world’s isotopes for nuclear medical tests. The isotope shortage has forced the cancellation of thousands of medical tests across the country.

Doctors are also demanding the government conduct “open, meaningful and ongoing consultations with nuclear medicine physicians” and their associations on all federal decisions affecting the supply of medical isotopes.

Posted Aug. 27/09.