Sunday, December 9, 2007

Chalk River SNAFU should have been avoided

Last night's story about how the shutdown at Chalk River and the ensuing crisis at hospitals across North America as they scramble to find alternate sources for radio isotopes all could have been avoided, is a stark reminder that the advances in medicine have also been curses. Renovations at the facility are six years behind schedule? With no backup reactor, which won't be open until the middle of next year? Surgeries and even routine medical appointments have been thrown into turmoil. Even workers' compensation boards, the main funder of "after hours" examinations, are trying to make alternate arrangements.

We can't imagine a world without CT and PET scans, the problem is that physicians and nurses for the most part can't remember an age when we did without them. And for the next few weeks they'll have to do without, and people's lives will be in danger.

To use an analogy, someone once remarked that we're so reliant on communications systems like GPS that if it broke down we will have forgotten to use the sextant. We rely on television and radio so much that many were "in the dark" during the big blackout four years ago; the only ones who were able to access information were those smart enough to have backup batteries for their ISP connection, had windup radios, or were tuned into the amateur radio network. (You see "hams" on the roads here in Canada all the time, they're the ones who've been issued plates with their call signs; beginning with VA, VE , VO or VY.)

How is it possible we live in a country where even the completely peaceful use of nuclear power can't be relied upon anymore?

Some one, whether it's the morons at Chalk River -- or the regulators -- should be made to compensate our health care system for this SNAFU. If people are left to die, it's depraved indifference homicide.

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