Moncton cancer centre suspends DNA testing, blames duplication with Saint John
ACRI move comes after premier announces decision to allow Saint John Regional Hospital to purchase equipment
The Atlantic Cancer Research Institute in Moncton suspended all of its genetic sequencing activities on Thursday, in response to the provincial government's decision to allow the Saint John Regional Hospital to proceed with the purchase of DNA equipment.
"I cannot accept to be a party to raping the taxpayers of New Brunswick," by duplicating services, ACRI president and scientific director Dr. Rodney Ouellette announced during an interview with CBC News.
Ouellette says the final decision rests with ACRI's board, which will be meeting on Friday, but his recommendation will be to permanently cease offering the tests, which determine the DNA of a patient's particular type of cancer and the best course of treatment.
"I have been consistent since Day One on this," said Ouellette.
"We did our due diligence, we looked at the business plan, it is clear, without doubt — and we've said this since the beginning — that New Brunswick cannot support two sequencing centres," he said.
We cannot go forward and knowingly drive New Brunswick further and further into deficit.- Rodney Ouellette, ACRI president
"We cannot go forward and knowingly drive New Brunswick further and further into deficit."
Premier Brian Gallant announced Thursday that the equipment purchase for the Saint John Regional Hospital would go through.
Earlier this month, the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation announced Health Minister Victor Boudreau had blocked the purchase, after the foundation raised $900,000. Boudreau cited the existing equipment in Moncton and said the province could not afford two testing centres.
"We have a little bit too much political involvement in the decision-making process," said Ouellette.
He says having more than one centre would drive the cost per test up "to the point where we are paying the highest price in the country."
Instead of each test costing about $900, Ouellette estimates the cost could be as high as $2,500, while other centres are offering the service for about $1,000. "So why continue on?"
Dr. John Dornan, chief of staff at the Saint John Regional Hospital, saw it differently.
"We need to help ACRI grow their pie," he said.
He believes that together, Saint John and Moncton can both have complementary labs without extra costs to taxpayers.
"Some of the sequencing will occur here. Some of the sequencing, a lot of the sequencing will occur in Moncton. And I think this is a real win opportunity," he said.