Fundraising efforts for Sudbury PET scanner push through hard economic times

The campaign to buy a piece of cancer detecting equipment for northeastern Ontario is past the halfway mark, but it is up against a tough economy and competition.

Cash-strapped City of North Bay could lose doctors if it contributes to cause, says mayor

The Sam Bruno PET Scanner Steering Committee still has to raise $1.8 million for the capital costs of purchasing a PET scanner for northeastern Ontario. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

The campaign to buy a piece of cancer-detecting equipment for northeastern Ontario is past the halfway mark, but it is up against competition and a downturn in the economy.

The Sam Bruno PET Scanner Steering Committee has raised more than $2.2 million, but it still needs $1.8 million more to purchase a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner for the Sudbury hospital.

"It's a real emotional roller coaster," committee member Brenda Tessaro said. "But we have never lost faith."

Tessaro is asking for municipalities in northeastern Ontario to contribute to the cause by making an annual donation of 61 cents per person, based on population. 

But some communities say they cannot afford to contribute.

Lack of resources?

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald said his city could lose doctors if it gives money to a PET scanner. 

"We've put together $175,000 per year into trying to attract physicians. So if we were to remove some of that money – because we have no extra money available – than our citizens might not have doctors," McDonald said.

"At the end of the day, there's a lack of resources on our side."

There is also other health care fundraisers fighting for the same dollars, such as one for a new children's treatment centre in Sudbury. 

Killarney, Kapuskasing, Blind River, Nairn and Hyman, Armour, Elk Lake and the Township of James, Espanola, Matachewan, Gordon/Barrie Island, Opasatika and Sudbury have already contributed to the purchase of a PET scanner for the region. 

Tessaro is staying optimistic because the province has committed to paying for the operating costs of the equipment

"We are on the road now and it's just a matter of finishing it off," she said.

Sam Bruno's legacy project

Tessaro is the only non-family member part of the committee. 

The group was struck after the death of Sam Bruno in 2010 to continue his dream of bringing a permanent PET scanner to Sudbury. 

Tessaro said she got to know Bruno during the final years of his life after reading his letters to the media about the need for a PET scanner. 

"It was the injustice behind it and seeing this man fighting for all of us," she said. 

Bruno had to drive to Toronto to get PET scans during his battle with cancer, Tessaro said. 

"For him to be able to drive up and down Highway 69 by himself in all of weather conditions that we have to face as northerners to be part of clinical trial after clinical trial, in addition to fighting the government to publicly fund PET scans — in my good health, I thought, 'I think and I can contribute to this cause and this is definitely something that we should have in the northeast'," Tessaro said. 

Tessaro said PET scanner donations can be made to the Northern Cancer Foundation


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