Thursday, April 04, 2019

Sudbury Is Still Waiting...

Bill Crumplin, with photo of his late wife Donna Williams, image courtesy
You might recall my post of a few years ago about Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, a medium-sized town that turned to its citizens to fund a PET/CT facility when the much-touted Health Service would not provide it. The wait-time was not just an inconvenience; the health of Sudbury citizens was adversely affected by the lack of local scanning capability.

The wait goes on, it seems.

My friend Stacey discovered another such tragedy related to imaging, or rather, lack thereof. As reported on

Donna Williams’ dying wish was to raise money toward the purchase of a piece of medical equipment that would have helped doctors diagnose her illness sooner and perhaps changed the course of her treatment. And her life.

Williams, 54, died April 6, 2016, of cardiac amyloidosis, a disorder caused by deposits of an abnormal protein in heart tissue, making it difficult for the heart to function properly.

The Sudbury woman was scheduled to have a cardiac MRI in Ottawa, but wasn’t healthy enough to travel there and sadly died two weeks after being diagnosed.

Bill Crumplin said he and Williams, an exceptionally bright woman, did not make it to their fourth wedding anniversary before she succumbed “brutally fast” to the rare disease. Had she been able to have a cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (the full name of an MRI) scan in January 2016 rather than March, the outcome might have been different.


SN is operating its one MRI machine 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, completing about 13,000 scans a year. Still patients must wait an average 52 days for a test that should be performed within the provincial target of 28 days.


Health Sciences North Foundation executive director Mary Lou Hussak is leading the drive to raise more than $6 million for the scanners. The foundation is focusing all its efforts right now on raising the $3.5 million for the purchase and installation of a second MRI, then $2.6 million to replace the first.

So far, $1.1 million has been raised, without campaigning, thanks to a $500,000 donation from Carmen and Sandy Fielding and another so far anonymous $500,000 donation.

Hussak has no doubt residents of Sudbury and the Northeast will give generously to the MRI fund. While some have made huge donations, all amounts, large or small, will be gratefully accepted.

People can make individual or company donations, or hold small events such as birthday or tea parties or dinners in their home where friends can donate to the cause. Hussak encourages people thinking of holding such events to contact the foundation because it has resources that could make that easier.


Meanwhile, construction continues at HSN’s Ramsey Lake Health Centre on the suite to accommodate a combined positron emission tomography/computed tomography scanner. There was a short delay in the early days, said Hartman, but efforts are being made to make up for lost time. The hospital estimates the suite will be finished in the spring and do the first PET scan this summer.
Oh, myyyyyyy.... has taken three years to get the PET/CT scanner we heard about it 2016? Lovely. And the citizens of Sudbury have to take up collections and hold tea-parties to fund another MRI so critical patients (I have to say it) don't DIE waiting for their scans? The article neglects to mention the possibility of bake sales and selling Sally Foster gift-wrap, both big revenue-producers when my kids were in school. 

Houston, I mean Sudbury, we have a problem. 

The Canadian system is the quintessential  bureaucracy, and as such keeps meticulous records. In this case, wait-times are accessible via a Provincial website, Read 'em and weep:

I really don't need to add much of an editorial comment here, do I? But that never stops me, so I'll simply repeat more or less what I said about Sudbury's PET/CT in 2016, and it remains accurate in my humble opinion:

The healthcare here in the United States is good. Really, really good. People who can afford to do so come HERE to be diagnosed and treated. Those who can afford to come HERE do NOT go to Canada. Or Germany. Or Switzerland. Or Sweden. Or India. Or Anywhere Else. Even Mick Jagger, a British Citizen, is having a heart-valve replacement tomorrow in New York City, and not London. I'm not saying I contribute much, if anything, to it, but the best medicine in the world is practiced in the United States. I don't think our system is perfect, and I have called for massive reforms, dumping Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, and revamping the whole thing including a huge revision of the laws governing the Third-Party Payers, our beloved insurance companies. Ours is a dysfunctional system and it has to be revised. But even with its blemishes, it produces some of the best medicine in the world.

And yet, in our inexorable march toward Socialism, the latest incarnation of which is called "Medicare for All", led by demagogues who would have us trade everything that makes America America for "free stuff", American health care stands to be crippled in the process of making it "free". And by the way, nothing is "free". Someone has to pay for the "free stuff".

We need to look at the case of imaging in Sudbury and understand the implications. There isn't enough money in Ontario to provide enough "free" scanners for Sudbury, and in fact, funds for this life-saving technology are limited province-wide. Thus, the fine people of Sudbury will have to fund the purchase themselves. That they are willing to do so to help their fellow citizens is the heartwarming part of this story. The heartbreaking aspect is that they have to do so. I see this as a huge crack in the perfect facade of Canada's single payer system. It FAILED the people of Sudbury. And it fails the people of Ontario, and indeed all of Canada by limiting resources and thus rationing their care.

The profit motive has brought an overabundance of expensive CT, MRI, and PET/CT scanners to the United States, with the inherent likelihood of over utilization. My town of less than 200,000 may well have as many scanners as all of Ontario; certainly our small, relatively poor state has a significant multiple of the technology. Contrast this to the neighbourly situation in Ontario which requires the citizens themselves to raise money for life-saving technology that the government, even using the generously given tax-dollars (CAD) cannot provide.

This is not the answer to fixing healthcare in the United States. Sorry.

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