PET scans – a high-tech nuclear scan widely available in the United States and in many Canadian provinces – will be covered under the Ontario public health plan for cancer and cardiac patients by the fall. The PET or positron emission tomography tests will be covered this fall for cancer and heart patients under specific conditions.
There are 10 PET scanners located around the province but in order for patients to get one they had to be part of a clinical trial. For years the government has stalled on widespread coverage of the scans while patient advocates have cried out for the service. PET scans are effective in staging or figuring out the extent of some cancers and that can help direct treatment decisions. The scans can also be helpful in assessing treatment for heart conditions.
Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin called on the province to make this service available for cancer and heart patients in late 2008. Marin launched an investigation into the PET scan evaluation process in 2007. He received numerous complaints from doctors and patients who said the government was taking too long to decide whether or not they would provide the service. Marin noted it had been 7 years since the government began clinical trials to determine whether or not it should fund PET scans.
“I am gratified that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has taken my concerns about patient access to PET scanning in 2009 seriously and acted,” Marin said in a release.
By October 2009, insured PET scans will be available in Ottawa, London, Toronto, Hamilton and Thunder Bay. They are also available in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Manitoba and the demand for the service appears to be rising.