Windsor doctor clears up discrepancies in PET scanner debate

Windsor did not fundraise for its current PET/CT scanner in the same way Sudbury and northeastern Ontario did for the one coming here later this year. That's what the doctor who operates the one in Windsor says.

No community fundraising involved in buying Windsor's current PET/CT scanner, doctor says

The community of Windsor did not fundraise towards its current PET/CT scanner, which is set to be replaced with a provincially-funded machine for the hospital. Dr Kevin Tracey says the mobile equipment was leased seven years ago by his clinic. (supplied/Dr Kevin Tracey)

The doctor who operates the PET/CT scanner in Windsor is clearing up some discrepancies that have surfaced in the Windsor versus Sudbury PET scanner debate.

Late last week, the provincial government announced it will fully fund a replacement PET/CT scanner for Windsor.

That news has not gone over well in Sudbury after ten years of rallying and fundraising to buy the equipment for the hospital here.

Nickel Belt NDP MPP France Gelinas said while she was happy for Windsor, she called Sudbury's situation not 'equity of access.'

Ontario's Energy Minister and Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault said originally, Windsor did fundraising to get its original machine 11 years ago, adding the province is now paying to replace that machine.

Dr. Kevin Tracey is the medical director at Precision Diagnostic Imaging Regional PET/CT Centre in Windsor. That's the clinic where the aging equipment is that the province says it plans to replace.

Tracey co-owns the clinic — which is not supported by the Ministry of Health, other than the scan revenue they get from each diagnostic image they take. The mobile PET/CT scanner has been operating there for seven years, not 11.
Dr Kevin Tracey says the mobile PET scanner in Windsor would be easy to get to Sudbury and could be used over the next year while the community waits for the permanent equipment to be ready. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

He says the Windsor community did not fundraise to buy the machine, the way Sudbury and northeastern Ontario did to collect the $3.5 million for the equipment which is expected to be operational later in 2018.

"This is a centre that my colleague and I began in 2011, and we leased a scanner — that is not new — to do our PET scans over the past almost seven years now. There was no provincial or local funding involved in the acquisition of that scanner."

Different kind of fight

He says they've had to fight for the clinic when it comes to ministry support, even though for the past several years the ministry has included the Windsor PET scanner site as one of its 14 throughout the province.

"We didn't fundraise, but fought in a different way," Tracey said.

"We'd like to see somebody fight for the patients [in northeastern Ontario] so that we can come up and do the same thing that we've been doing for the past several years down here."

Tracey says a mobile PET/CT scanner is up-to-date modern technology, which provides quality images.

"It's not a junk piece of equipment in a trailer. This is a piece of equipment that moves from site to site and hospital to hospital."

He also adds that a permanent piece of equipment, similar to those built in hospitals, requires those patients from nearby communities, to travel to it, instead of the medicine coming to them.

"I believe there are communities of the north that would be better served with a mobile program, including your adjacent communities."

"The best way to give closer-to-home medicine is to bring the medicine to them and that's what this technology does."

In fact several years ago, Tracey pitched a plan to the Ministry that he bring his mobile PET/CT scanner to Sudbury to provide imaging to patients here while they waited for the new permanent one to be built, but the Ministry halted those plans.

Scanner for hospital not clinic

The province has earmarked the new PET/CT scanner for the hospital in Windsor. The Ministry of Health says its part of its new replacement program, where Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) will fund the replacement equipment for hospitals.

Tracey says when he first heard the news about Windsor he was shocked, since the new scanner will not actually replace the mobile one he uses at his clinic, yet the province calls it a replacement.

In fact, Tracey predicts that his clinic will likely close down, and all the staff could be out of a job.

"I'll tell you honestly I think this is just a bad decision."

"This is not a fair decision by this government. It's not a smart decision by this government. Your patients in Sudbury could be serviced and taken care of in a much more humane way than having to be forced to travel."


Angela Gemmill


Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who covers news in Sudbury and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to