A new high-tech cancer diagnostic machine at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton is slated to be shut down within a few weeks until the spring over funding issues.
Vitalité Health Network officials say they've already used up their annual quota of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans covered by the provincial government.
'It's really not a good idea to put a cap on an exam that has become essential to our work.' —Dr. Carol Williams
Dr. Carol Williams says patients should be concerned.
"In a way, that's like saying, 'Get your cancer early in the year, because that's when you're going to get the best treatment,'" said Williams.
"That's just not an appropriate way to go about the medical profession. You can't say that to the patients. You can't disadvantage the patients who get their cancer in November and December, it's unacceptable."
The long-awaited multi-million dollar PET machine has been in steady use since it arrived at the hospital in July.
But the provincial government only provided enough funding for scans for 400 patients and hospital staff say they will hit that number on Dec. 20.
"I can't fathom that the government would want to go ahead with this idea," said Williams.
"It's really not a good idea to put a cap on an exam that has become essential to our work."
Health minister looking into it
Health Minister Ted Flemming says he plans to look into the situation at the Moncton hospital.
"I've got meetings arranged immediately," he told CBC News.
"I'm going to find out what happened, I'm going to find out what the budget was, whether that budget was reasonable or not, whether the number of procedures was reasonable."
Meanwhile, Vitalité officials say patients who are already booked for a scan will get one.
They hope the PET quota will be adjusted before their planned reopening after the Christmas break, they said.PET machines can detect diseases much earlier than CAT scans or MRIs because they can detect chemical and physiological changes related to the metabolism, not just lumps and bumps.