If all goes to plan, a mobile PET scanner could soon be making weekly trips to Sudbury, says Dr. Kevin Tracey, president and medical director of Precision Diagnostic Imaging.
Since 2011, Tracey has been operating a clinic in Windsor that has access to a mobile positron emission tomography scanner, an advanced medical device that is used in clinical oncology and can help detect brain diseases, such as various types of dementia, and heart disease.
On Jan. 14, Tracey made a case to the province's PET Steering Committee for his clinic's mobile PET scanner to travel a route that would include Sudbury.
“We hope Sudbury is the first site to benefit from it,” he said.
The PET Steering Committee is an expert panel responsible for advising the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on issues relating to PET access in the province after reviewing scientific evidence.
“Recommendations to the ministry regarding the introduction of PET service are anticipated to come from steering committee in the coming months or sooner,” said Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins in a statement to NorthernLife.ca. “Once advice is received, we will review those recommendations and make an evidence-based decision.”
If the ministry approves Tracey's plan, it would offer a temporary solution for Sudburians who currently travel to Toronto for PET scans.
Since 2010 the Sam Bruno PET Steering Committee has advocated for the province to purchase a PET scanner for Sudbury, and has raised $650,000 to help with that goal.
But a PET scanner costs nearly $4 million, and while the issue has been a hot political topic during Sudbury's byelection, the province has not yet committed to purchasing the medical device for Health Sciences North.
Tracey said the mobile PET scanner, which travels in a specialized trailer, has the same functionality as a permanent model that would be installed at a hospital.
In the United States, he said, nearly 50 per cent of PET scanners are mobile.
“This mobile PET is really a sharing of a really expensive tool,” he said.
And Sudbury is the perfect place to test that model of health-care delivery, Tracey added.
Northeastern Ontario is the only region in the province without a PET scanner.
Every year, more than 500 people travel from the northeast to Toronto so they can receive a PET scan.
Tracey said he suspects many people don't bother making the trip to Toronto, but would be able to use a PET scanner if it was parked at Health Sciences North.
If the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care approves Precision Diagnostic Imaging's proposal, Tracey said they would update the cameras in their PET scanner to make the device more efficient.
“If we're talking about in excess of 500 patients a year, that money could easily be diverted to funding and upgrading our services,” he said.
That would allow them to see around 10 patients per day.
Health Sciences North would need to invest $15,000 to $25,000 to have the facilities needed to accommodate the mobile PET scanner.
Beyond that, said Tracey, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care would be billed around $1,000 for each scan.