Specialist shortage sends cancer patients away for treatment
The chief cancer doctor in Saint John says it's likely the province will soon be sending patients elsewhere for radiation treatments.
Dr. Eshwar Kumar says the radiation oncology department is suffering through another shortage of specialists. The waiting lists are getting longer just as Bernard Lord and the Tories are promising to shorten them.
Lord announced his plan last week for shortening waits for radiation treatment. He says if patients don't get the cancer therapy they need in four weeks the Tories will pay the bill to send them out-of-province.
That's probably a good solution if you're looking for radiation therapy in Saint John.
Kumar says the region is short four radiation technologists and waiting lists are eight to 10 weeks long.
Kumar says it's a frustrating situation. "The worst thing that can happen is for someone to know they have to have treatment and have to wait for it. We're trying really really hard to make patients not wait, but it's something that's hard because we don't have enough people to meet our needs right now."
Kumar says that's not likely to change any time soon. The department has one student signed on for the end of the summer, but that still leaves three vacancies.
Kumar says a trip to another province or to Maine is the likely solution for many patients. Meanwhile, treatments are being given based on medical need. "It is hard on the patient, no doubt about that, but we try our best to reassure them that the wait will not have an adverse effect on the cancer."
Kumar isn't sure how long he'll have to wait before he has a full staff of radiologists.