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B.C. radiation therapists hope U.S. cancer care is ‘temporary solution’

Radiation therapists in B.C. say the provincial government’s move to send some cancer patients to the U.S. for treatment highlights some of the challenges for those working in the field.

Sarah Erdelyi, B.C. manager for the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (CAMRT), says the province’s decision earlier this week demonstrates the need for more bodies in the sector.

“Our membership is concerned about the current staffing shortages and what this means for the next few years,” she told CityNews. “The backlogs caused by the pandemic have created a surge in demand for radiation therapy, but the workforce hasn’t been able to handle the volume, and it hasn’t been able to grow at the same pace.”

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Monday that up to 50 patients a week will be sent to the U.S. for radiation treatment beginning May 29. The minister cited long delays in treatment due to equipment upgrades and staffing challenges.


Read More: B.C. to send cancer patients to U.S. for treatment


Those staffing challenges are further illustrated by Erdelyi, who points to a poll conducted by CAMRT that showed signs of burnout among therapists have doubled since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These professionals have been taking on extra volume or temporarily jumping between centres to help provide care to patients in other regions,” she said. “It’s not sustainable for them.”

Only one program is offered to train radiation therapists in B.C. at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Erdelyi says while the province has recently expanded the program from a dozen spaces per year to 20, more can still be done to address the current backlog in treatment.

“More trained professionals will give B.C. more capacity to increase the number of radiation therapy appointments in the province and provide essential care to patients,” she said.

The province says during the two-year outsourcing program for cancer patients, it will continue to address staffing challenges, including bumping up wages for therapists and oncologists.

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