'Deeply committed' to delivering PET scanning technology to northeast Ontario

Some opposition politicians have raised concerns lately about delays in bringing PET scanner technology to northeastern Ontario. The Ministry of Health says the project is on track — and many phases of the capital planning process have been fast-tracked for the hospital in Sudbury.

Many phases of capital planning process expedited by Ministry of Health

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas (third from left) celebrates in November 2016 with the Sam Bruno Steering committee, including the late Sam Bruno's sister and mother. The group worked over five years to raise more than $4 million to purchase a PET scanner for Health Sciences North. (Facebook)

Nickel Belt NDP MPP France Gelinas is concerned the provincial government is holding up the process to bring the positron emission tomography scanner to the Sudbury community.

Gelinas said she's been working for more than eight years to bring a PET scanner to northeastern Ontario.

Initially, she worked alongside the late Sam Bruno to lobby the provincial government for the diagnostic equipment.

After Bruno's death in 2010, the community worked to raise the $4 million needed to purchase the scanner for Health Sciences North.

"News of more delay just adds to the disappointment towards this Premier and the government. How can the Premier defend another year of delay for us to get access to PET scanning technology?" Gelinas asked during Question Period at Queen's Park this week.

'Project is on track'

"The people of Sudbury and the surrounding area will not have to wait much longer," Health and Long Term Care Erik Hoskins responded.

"We're working with the hospital, the Bruno family, the community supports that are in place. This project is on track and will open as expected."

In an email to CBC News, the Ministry of Health and Long term Care said some stages of the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) capital planning process have been expedited for this project. All small and major hospital capital projects must follow this guideline. 

The resulting timelines, relative to the hospital's proposed schedule are largely dependent on the quality and timelines of the hospital's submission and response to ministry comments at each stage, the email went on to say.

Priority project for government, Thibeault

Sudbury Liberal MPP Glenn Thibeault says the PET scanner project is a high-priority for the provincial government, and a personal one for him. 

"We know the importance of making sure that this happens as quickly as possible and you know that's why we made the commitment to the family. I made that commitment to Sam so long ago, and that's why I am always humbled to be able to say that I'm pleased to see a PET scanner coming to Sudbury."

Thibeault told CBC News he frequently checks in with the Ministry of Health on the status of the capital project process for HSN's PET scanner.

"They were very pleased to see where [HSN is] at and very confident that we can get the [request for proposal] out as quickly as possibly, to make sure that we can keep to having construction underway in 2018."

If the next stage is completed to the Ministry's approval, HSN says it can begin construction on the special PET suite in this fiscal year, which ends March 31.

HSN says construction is expected to take nine months. Sudbury and northeastern Ontario could be using the PET scanner by this time next year.

Sam's legacy

Currently patients in northeastern Ontario who need this type of diagnostic scan must travel to hospitals in Toronto or Ottawa.

Thibeault said he is 'deeply committed' to delivering on Sam's legacy.

"Sam was able to rally this community to recognize that we needed a PET scanner."

With files from Angela Gemmill