Winnipeg doctor resigns due to health-care hold-ups

A prominent Winnipeg doctor says he’s resigned from his day job due to frustrations with the province’s health-care system.

Dr. Sandor Demeter, who had worked in nuclear medicine at Health Sciences Centre since 2002, announced his departure in a blog post this week, where he said cancer patients are no longer able to be provided with the standard of care they need.

“I’ve been trying to be a positive change agent, trying to put patients first,” Demeter told 680 CJOB.

“For the last 10 years, I’ve really felt that I couldn’t move the agenda forward, that things were really stagnant.

“We’d gone through this perfect storm of protracted implementation of change, erosion of funding and COVID — and I just felt I couldn’t manage not being able to move forward, and seeing things not only stagnate but deteriorate.”

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Demeter was instrumental in getting Manitoba a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner — an essential tool in helping cancer patients, but he said the province “isn’t keeping up with the Joneses” when it comes to the technology, often leaving patients waiting a month before they start treatment.

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Dr. Sandor Demeter. University of Manitoba

“I decided that I would move on to other things,” he said.

“For people with specific cancers, there’s no more sensitive tool to telling them where the cancer is and how far it’s spread, and that determines what therapy works best for them, whether it be radiation or chemo or surgery, and then if people have therapy and they want to know have they responded to therapy, PET scanning also does that.

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“It’s become a standard of care for the management of cancer patients, and we’re at the edge of capacity to meet the demand right now. I think with our wait-list we’re not meeting demand as we should.

“As soon as you get the diagnosis, you want the scan as soon as possible before you get therapy, because to determine if therapy is working or not, you need to compare the second scan to the first one. It makes assessing how good the treatment is more difficult. For some patients, you can’t wait four weeks to start chemotherapy after you’ve been diagnosed.”

Although Demeter said patients aren’t necessarily dying because of the wait times, they’re not getting the best standard of care they could be getting.

Add to that an aging scanner without a permanent location — Demeter said it’s been in a number of temporary spots — and it adds up to a frustrating situation.

“We had to replace our previous PET scanner (but didn’t), and it was out of date,” he said.

“We got a letter from the vendor, saying they couldn’t guarantee parts. (Shared Health) just kept looking for these quickie, less expensive, temporary solutions … and I think we can meet now the demand for cancer patients.”

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