The Ontario government just announced that PET scans will be publicly funded for certain cancer and cardiac patients thereby bringing Ontario better in line with most other provinces.
PET (positron emission tomography) scanning is a nuclear medicine diagnostic imaging exam that can provide both the location and extent of the metabolic activity of abnormal tissues such as cancer. It has the potential to identify problems that may not be found with MRI or CT scans, and can be useful in making treatment decisions for patients with certain cancer and advanced heart conditions.
Compared with other provinces where the technology was available and funded, Ontario only funded six scans for every 100,000 people in Ontario, about 30 times fewer than the number of scans funded in Quebec and the lowest rate in Canada. Public complaints, including from a number of CARP chapters in Ontario, prompted Ombudsman Andre Marin to investigate.
As a result of the Ombudsman’s intervention, the McGuinty Government announced that Ontario will be making PET scans a publicly insured health service to certain cancer and cardiac patients (for certain evidence-based health indications, based on results from the Ontario studies of its effectiveness on patients). The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will continue to evaluate use in additional health indications. For those with indications for which PET scans are not currently funded, physicians may request access through the PET Access Program, where each application for funding is considered on a case-by-case basis. Insured PET scans will be performed in Toronto, Ottawa, London, Hamilton and Thunder Bay by October 2009.
Previously, Ontario restricted access to PET technology. It spent seven years conducting clinical trials to determine whether it should provide public funding for specific conditions. Access to publicly funded PET scans for cancer patients were limited to those who were candidates for five clinical trials run through the Ontario Clinical Oncology Group and restricted, individually-approved access through the Ontario PET Registry Program.
This resulted in a great disparity between access to this diagnostic technology in Ontario versus other provinces, such as British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Manitoba. The figures for the availability of publicly funded clinical PET scanning in Canada as of December 2006 are provided below:
Availability of publicly funded clinical PET scanning in Canada, December 2006
British Columbia funds 2000 scans per year or 47 scans per 100,000 residents per year.
Alberta funds 6000 scans per year or 178 scans per 100,000 residents per year.
Saskatchewan funds 130 scans per year or 15 scans per 100,000 residents per year.
Manitoba funds 900 scans per year or 77 scans per 100,000 residents per year.
Ontario funds 750 scans per year or 6 scans per 100,000 residents per year.
Quebec funds 16, 000 scans per year or 209 scans per 100,000 residents per year.
New Brunswick funds 300 scans per year or 40 scans per 100,000 residents per year.
PEI funds 20 scans per year or 15 scans per 100,000 residents per year.
Nova Scotia funds 60 scans per year or 6.5 scans per 100,000 residents per year.