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That’s also one reason the Legislature stepped into the dispute and imposed the moratorium, said Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, one of the main sponsors.
The concern, she said, was that private radiation facilities were “opening up and kind of skimming off patients” from hospitals, which rely on that income to subsidize their operations. “It has to do with fairness in the medical field,” she said.
But Flynn and his colleagues say they’re trying to offer patients a more convenient and “integrated model” of care that lets them get chemotherapy and radiation at the same location.
The moratorium, they say, just gives an unfair advantage to MRO, which operates many of the hospital-based radiation facilities.
“Their intent was to simply shut us out of the marketplace totally — in fact, to shut everybody out of the marketplace instead of themselves,” said Dr. Irving Lerner, a retired oncologist who is now a registered lobbyist for Minnesota Oncology.
Lerner acknowledges that the radiation treatment business is profitable. “Clearly, there’s a lot of money in it, and that’s clearly why the whole thing started,” he said.
But, he added, “my personal conviction is that the patients get lost in this whole battle. And I think the focus needs to be on the patients.”
Bill Hargis, former mayor of Woodbury, agrees. After he got radiation for prostate cancer, he testified against the moratorium on behalf of Minnesota Oncology.
“It kind of ticks you off that, you know, the real battle is a turf battle,” said Hargis, 63.
And the money spent on lobbying?
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I don’t know what one of these machines cost, but they each could have bought one by now.”
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384