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B.C. radiation therapists weigh in province's plan to send patients to U.S. for treatment

With the B.C. government set to begin sending cancer patients south of the border for radiation treatment later this month, the province's radiation therapists are expressing alarm over a "deepening workforce crisis."

"The Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists-British Columbia (CAMRT-BC) and the hundreds of radiation therapists it represents are very concerned about current staffing shortages at BC Cancer," the professional association said in a statement Thursday.

"These conditions have been building over some time, with current shortages only the culmination of underinvestment in the field and workforce reaction to ever-building workload, stress and burnout."

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the province's plan to send up to 50 patients per week to two facilities in Bellingham, Wash., on Monday.

Dix described the measure as both temporary and necessary to improve wait times for radiation treatment now while the province implements its plan to build capacity for the future. 

The minister's announcement has been met with both relief that patients will have faster access to life-saving care and outrage that the province's health-care system isn't robust enough to deliver that care itself.

The CAMRT-BC describes the government's plan as an indication of "how extensive the crisis is," and warns that it will take "several years to solve."

“Several radiation therapists have expressed their concerns to me about this issue and how it will impact patient outcomes,” said Sarah Erdelyi, provincial manager of the CAMRT-BC, in the statement.

“Some of them have volunteered to temporarily relocate to assist centres experiencing the most difficulty filling vacancies or retaining staff. Right now, many are experiencing high levels of emotional exhaustion and feel as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet and no clear path to solve this crisis.”

Irving Gold, the CAMRT's national CEO, said radiation therapists in B.C. tried to raise the issue of burnout and worsening staff shortages to the provincial government "throughout 2022."

"We would welcome the opportunity to work with the government and other affected parties to develop long-term solutions that work for patients, professionals and the citizens of British Columbia, and so that the measure announced this week can be replaced with sustainable solutions for the long-term viability of cancer care in the province,” Gold said in the CAMRT-BC statement. Top Stories

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