From cancer detection scanners to children's treatment centres, hospitals in northern Ontario are increasingly asking communities to raise funds for medical equipment.

But some say this puts northern hospitals at a disadvantage.

The Northern Cancer Foundation's Tannys Laughren told CBC News that, ideally, the government would pay for all hospital equipment.

"But the reality is that healthcare budgets are ballooning out of control," she said.

"To try and find ways to curtail that and make sure that the lifesaving and the basic healthcare needs are met, I think the community is being asked to step in."

NDP health critic France Gelinas said there's an assumption that all communities have the capacity to fundraise for equipment.

"This assumption works good for some hospitals. It does not work good for all hospitals and, most of the time, the big losers are hospitals in northern and rural communities," she said.

Gelinas said it's large and wealthy communities that are best able to collect funds.

"The system has never been fair. For some hospitals, they have fundraising machines that go province-wide and they do very well."

Red Tape

In the Sudbury region, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is asking Sudburians to fundraise $3-4 million for the region's first PET scanner. Only then will the government provide the $1.6 million each year to operate the equipment.

The scanner detects cancer, alzheimers and cardiac issues, and is already available in most of Ontario.

Gelinas said other communities have not been asked to fundraise for the scanner in the way Sudbury has.

She said in some cases, the provincial government has written cheques for grants that allowed larger hospitals to buy PET scanners. 

Annette Cressy

Annette Cressy is a breast cancer survivor and founder of the group Angels in Pink. She says groups like hers are purchasing medical equipment that would otherwise not exist. (CBC file photo)

"At University Health Network in Toronto, they got a huge grant from the government to study Parkinson's disease. Part of that grant allowed them to buy a PET scan," Gelinas said. "But those kind of research grants are way out of our league."

Breast cancer survivor and fundraiser Annette Cressy said groups like hers — Angels in Pink — are purchasing equipment that would otherwise not exist.

"If you ask the government to buy something for you, it just takes a long, long time. There is so much red tape," she said.

"I think, because we're in northern Ontario, that seems to be the missing link that we need to strive that much more."

The Sudbury group raising money for the PET scanner has recently hit $1 million in funds raised.