Hospitals seek isotope as Ottawa pushes to restart reactor

OTTAWA, ONTARIO - As hospital officials scramble to identify alternative sources of a crucial radioactive material used to diagnose and treat cancer patients, two federal government ministers have written the nuclear safety commission urging it to get the Chalk River reactor online.

The University Health Network recently received a generator which will supply isotopes to its hospitals as well as the Hospital for Sick Children, Mount Sinai and Women's College.

Because that supply of isotopes is limited and has a short shelf life, the hospital network– comprised of Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret – can only supply the hospitals December 11 with no future supply confirmed, said spokesperson Fiona Hill.

More is being sought. The shortage, caused by the shutdown of the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. reactor, could last until January.

Cancer Care Ontario, in charge of cancer services across the province, has contacted all cancer hospitals with a suggested list of treatment priorities and alternatives.

Health Minister Tony Clement and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said the "government has confirmed the parts and equipment required to complete the upgrade maintenance on the Chalk River facility has been expedited."

And in a letter they urged nuclear safety commission president Linda Keen to consider the health of Canadians in the decision on when the reactor will be restarted.


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