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Letter: MPP's PET scanner comments full of inaccuracies

Physician blasts Thibeault over 'politically motivated' letter to the editor
20170310 Glenn Thibeault Chamber of Commerce Breakfast KA

Editor's note: The following is in response to the letter titled Thibeault says report on Windsor PET scanner was 'politically motivated,' published March 9 at

As the owner and operator of the only PET/CT clinic that services the Windsor area for the past seven years, and medical director of the Nuclear Medicine program in Windsor, I would like to respond to (Sudbury) MPP Glenn Thibeault's comments and inaccuracies for a second time this week.

Firstly, the title of the piece states that recent comments made about the equality of funding a fixed PET/CT machine in Windsor versus Sudbury are politically motivated. I am a physician and not a politician. I put patient care first, which is why I have persevered in starting and sustaining a mobile PET/CT service in my city, at my expense with little help and much hindrance from this government. Mr. Thibeault states "political gamesmanship" is going on here. The only political games I see have been played by this government.

Mr. Thibeault states "getting the facts right is paramount," and I agree. Earlier this week on Sudbury's local radio station he accused NDP health critic, and your MPP France Gélinas of inaccuracies. Ms. Gélinas has been a champion for PET in your region for many years and knows the truth on this better than anyone.

She has not presented any inaccuracies on this subject that I am aware of. Having presented our plans for PET in Sudbury to both the PC and NDP parties, I can tell you both have advocated for actually delivering, rather than just promising, closer-to-home medicine for the people of your region. 

Ms. Gélinas has been a staunch supporter of convenient, local access to this technology for years. She knows the truth that, unlike Sudbury, Windsor residents never had to raise money for access to the PET/CT scanner that our clinic uses, or that they have now been promised from the government.

Sudbury residents have been working to raise funds for a PET/CT scanner for years. Why this preferential treatment? This doesn’t feel like an equitable and considered decision on behalf of government.

Another fact stated by Mr. Thibeault is that just like in Sudbury, Windsor’s Cancer Foundation had to fundraise a significant amount to cover its portion of the new scanner. This is not accurate, as it has already been reported that the foundation in Windsor will only have to cover a cost overrun if the renovations end up costing more than the ministry allocation of $1 million.

Mr. Thibeault recently stated publicly that our clinic’s aging scanner has had repeated breakdowns. This is precisely the reason we asked for, and were led to believe that our scanner would be replaced. Instead, without consultation, they didn't fix our problem, which by their inaction they had deliberately created. They chose to make an investment which delivers less value for taxpayers and less flexibility for patients and residents of the area.

If this government was truly committed to helping the cancer patients of Sudbury and the North, as well as the many other areas of the province that don’t currently have access to this vital cancer diagnostic tool, they would have invested the $1.6 million per year to support a new Mobile PET/CT scanner that could deliver service locally to a wide range of communities. This mobile machine could have been scanning Windsor and Sudbury patients for the past two years, at a lower overall cost for both cities and the government. In fact, it could still be scanning patients while Sudbury’s hospital scanner is being built. This mobile technology is not the old way of doing things, but the 2018 new way of bringing this important tool to more patients.

Instead the government initiated a stalling tactic by requiring Sudbury to buy and install a new scanner first. This has taken more than two years to complete. They could have easily allowed us to upgrade and mobilize a new PET/CT scanner in that time, and allowed us to share the costs of supporting both city's programs. Meanwhile patients are still having to travel over snowy highways when they are at their sickest.

Don't take my word for it; ask centres like the Cleveland Clinic, which uses 21st Century mobile PET/CT scanners to service the communities around their world-famous PET/CT program. I think if it's good enough for these and other world-class centres in the US, England and all over the globe, it's good enough for Ontario cancer patients. It is less costly than having a new scanner, as planned in Sudbury and Windsor, sit idle many days, unused but costing millions. Almost 60 per cent of US patient are scanned on newer mobile and not fixed PET/CT scanners. Canada and Ontario with its dispersed population and size are more ideal for this program.

The NDP and PC parties both support our plan for a mobile program of PET/CT scanners for the patients of Ontario to supplement the fixed scanners, until every community has their own unit. Tell the Liberal government and the Ministry of Health to stop the "gamesmanship," as MPP Thibeault calls it, and do the right thing.

Kevin P. Tracey
Adjunct Professor, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
University of Western Ontario