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article imageAlberta Health nixes prostate laser surgery

By Jan Rose     Jun 1, 2009 in Health
Despite an offer recently from Canada Safeway at the eleventh hour, the only laser surgery for enlarged prostates was removed from the Rockyview Hospital in Calgary, Alberta. The grocery chain offered to pay $100,000 or more to keep the machine running.
The Alberta Health super board, which had set money aside to purchase the machine that has been on loan, decided not to spend the extra money performing the surgeries.
Cost of laser surgery is approximately $400 to $500 more per patient than traditional surgery, said Dr. John Dushinski, the Calgary region's chief urology surgeon.
But, repeated studies show the laser treatment costs less. It is less invasive, and patients often don't have to stay overnight, which frees up scarce hospital beds.
Dushinski, after learning from a Rockyview Hospital nurse that the machine was gone, said he was still hopeful that someone at Alberta Health would "come to their senses" and realize it was a bad decision.
There are four machines in Alberta, two of the Green light lasers in the Edmonton area, one in Grande Prairie and another in Medicine Hat. The machine doctors used in Rockyview will now be used outside Alberta, super board spokesman Don Stewart said Friday.
The machine that was about to leave Calgary would be bought by the Canada Safeway Foundation, the grocer’s charitable arm, said Renee Hopfner, its manager. After learning that it was operating funds that were lacking, the foundation offered to pay those costs for a year.
Premier Ed Stelmach told reporters it was the people who ran the health system who made the decision, not politicians.
Stelmach also claimed that Calgary was the “prostate treatment capital of Canada,” a claim hotly disputed by a leading advocate on prostate issues.
Spokemen Robert Shiell of Prostaid Calgary noted that not only does Edmonton have two Green light lasers to Calgary’s zero, but the capital city’s Royal Alexandra hospital also boasts a surgical robot to treat prostate cancer. Canada’s largest urology institute, however, is under construction at Rockyview Hospital.
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