Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists

Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists

October 08, 2009 09:00 ET

Medical Radiation Technologists Contributions Maximize Isotope Supply and Minimize Impact on Patients During Current Shortage, According to CAMRT Survey, But Long-Term Solutions Are Needed

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 8, 2009) - The flexibility and versatility of nuclear medicine technologists have assisted healthcare facilities in maintaining the quality of diagnostic imaging services to patients since the shutdown of the AECL's NRU reactor at Chalk River in May of this year. Nuclear medicine technologists, integral members of the healthcare team, carry out diagnostic imaging and some treatment procedures in hospitals or private medical clinics. Their technical expertise in the use of radiopharmaceuticals and radiation physics allows them to acquire images that help pinpoint the nature of a disease and how it is affecting the body.

The Chalk River shutdown resulted in ongoing and highly publicized global shortages of the medical radioisotopes used in diagnosis and treatment of cancer and cardiovascular disease. A survey on the impact of the isotope shortage on human resources at 119 out of a total 245 Canadian nuclear medicine facilities was released today by the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (CAMRT). The results indicate that 45% of survey respondents had made changes to their staffing arrangements. Of these, 62% indicated that technologists worked longer hours when isotopes were available and 68% added shifts over weekends in order to make the best use of the limited supply. One participant commented that: "Nuclear medicine staff have been very responsive; volunteering to change shifts with little notice to maximize radiopharmaceuticals and take care of our patients. This certainly demonstrates a strong commitment to patient care."

34% of organizations surveyed reported that nuclear medicine technologists were redeployed, allowing them to apply transferable skills to patient care in other diagnostic imaging departments. Not surprisingly, 40% of reporting facilities reported a decrease in staff morale due to the current uncertainty and concern over potential layoffs should the shortage continue.

Some of the other key findings of the survey:

  • Only 8 % of institutions surveyed reported staff reductions, in the range of a dozen FTE Canada-wide
  • 7 % are currently considering staff reductions, and if they proceed, estimate that another 18 positions could be affected
  • 7 % of institutions surveyed actually reported an increase in staff morale as their teams pulled together to ensure delivery of services to patients
  • Participants expressed concern about the future of nuclear medicine for both those currently working in this field and those contemplating a career
  • The rising cost of isotopes is of growing concern

The results underline that the summer months were challenging but manageable for survey respondents, due in part to the staffing solutions noted above but also a typically reduced demand during vacation periods. Several participants expressed concern about their ability to sustain quality of service over an extended period of limited supply and their hopes for a sustainable solution. Dawn-Marie King, a member of the CAMRT nuclear medicine advisory group, said:

"In the short term, we have collaborated and shared information to make the best use of supply, building on what we learned in previous shutdowns. But we need long term solutions. The potential for the global supply to be seriously diminished is great, given the age of the reactors worldwide."

The survey responses provide direction to the CAMRT for continuing advocacy on behalf of its membership. Chief Executive Officer Chuck Shields notes that the CAMRT has been better equipped to provide information to its members than in previous shutdowns. Health Canada and industry have collaborated to ensure that healthcare organizations are well informed, providing weekly updates and supply forecast calendars. Moreover, says Shields, "We've shared our members concerns with the government. Our brief to the House of Commons Natural Resources Committee addresses the urgent requirement for realistic pan-Canadian solutions to this global shortage. An extended shortage of medical isotopes will have significant impact on health human resources, and by extension, on patients." CAMRT representatives recently met with the Expert Review Panel for Long-Term Isotope Supply Solution, noting that procedures that utilize isotopes can only be performed if there are sufficient technologists to conduct them. Shields said, "We urged the panel to consider our suggestions on how to ensure a sustainable supply of the human resources required to use the isotopes for patient services."

About CAMRT: Founded in 1942, the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (CAMRT) is a federation of ten provincial associations who share a common membership of over 11,000. CAMRT is the national certifying body for radiological technologists, radiation therapists, nuclear medicine technologists and magnetic resonance technologists and, as such, provides the national entry to practice certification examinations. The CAMRT is also the national professional association that represents and promotes the MRT profession and is an active participant in the Canadian health system. It offers quality professional development programs, advocates on behalf of the MRT profession, publishes the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, conducts an annual conference and develops and promotes statements of professional best practice.

Contact Information

  • Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists
    Leacy O'Callaghan-O'Brien
    Director, Advocacy, Communications and Events
    613-234-0012 x 230 or 1-800-463-9729 /