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Diagnostic imaging

Provinces want compensation for isotope shortage

ST. JOHN’S – Provincial and territorial governments asked the federal government for $33 million in compensation for the medical isotope shortage, but are now in process of revising that figure.

The estimate was originally presented to federal officials a few weeks ago, but the provinces have since been asked to provide more specific breakdowns of the costs they incurred, due to the lengthy closure of Ontario’s reactor in Chalk River, Ont.

The provinces have not yet submitted a revised estimate but the issue of compensation was among the topics discussed by Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and her provincial counterparts when they met earlier this month in Newfoundland. The compensation issue remains on the table and the federal government is awaiting new estimates from the provinces before making a final decision.

While the provinces are responsible for delivering healthcare, the federal government is responsible for ensuring the medical isotope supply in Canada. Some of the provinces were hit harder than others by the reactor’s closure, which prompted a worldwide isotope shortage.

Saskatchewan’s total added costs, for example, were $430,000 to $450,000, but provinces such as Ontario are expected to have far higher totals.

The reactor in eastern Ontario was closed in May 2009 because of a leak and it took more than a year to get it up and running again. The Chalk River reactor produces one of the most commonly used isotopes, needed for medical treatments and diagnostic testing.

During the shortage, the prices for isotopes jumped and hospitals had to juggle the scheduling of procedures because the supply was so unsteady. They were also forced to use alternative procedures which contributed to the added costs due to the shortage.

Posted September 23, 2010

 

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