Radiation Therapist Staffing Shortage Causing Cancer Treatment Delays and Patients to Be Flown Out of the Province For Treatment

For Immediate Release:

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

ST. JOHN’S, NL – A critical shortage of Radiation Therapists is hampering the province’s ability to provide cancer treatment in the province, according to the President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) Jerry Earle.

“We are down about 30% of Radiation Therapists right now, which is having a huge impact on the Provincial Cancer Care Program,” said Earle. “Staffing shortages has meant that one of the four cancer treatment units has been closed which is causing delays. This has meant the province is not meeting its service delivery standards and some patients are being sent out of province for their treatment.”

“These highly trained and skilled healthcare professionals are in high demand across the country. Our province is simply not competitive with other jurisdictions, and as a result, we are seeing Radiation Therapists leaving the province at an alarming rate. There have been seven resignations in the past year; two this past week alone,” said Earle. “We need to be more competitive to keep these workers here – our province’s cancer care treatment program depends on it.”

Radiation Therapists prepare patients and administer radiation treatments for cancer and some other conditions. They locate and treat cancerous tumours under the prescribed treatment plan of a radiation oncologist. Their work involves the calculation of individual treatment, dosages, the maintenance of treatment records, and the operation of radiation equipment. This job requires a three-year specialty program. These workers also provide important emotional support to patients and families. Radiation Therapists are an integral part of the treatment team.

“Normally, a patient would receive a computerized tomography (CT) scan and start treatment within two weeks, now it is taking upwards of five to six weeks for cancer patients to receive the radiation treatment that they need,” said Earle. “Cancer patients and family members are already under tremendous stress; unnecessary delays only make the situation worse on multiple levels. Delays are the last thing patients need to worry about.”

“The province is also set to open a cancer treatment unit at the new hospital in Corner Brook – how are they going to open that unit if they don’t have the radiation therapist needed?” questioned Earle.

“This government needs to act immediately and urgently to address this issue before the situation gets any worse,” said Earle.