Closer to the bone

Trin­ity Con­cep­tion Pla­cen­tia Health Foun­da­tion cuts rib­bon on new di­ag­nos­tic unit at Carbonear hospi­tal


The ad­di­tion of a bone-den­sity scan­ner to the Carbonear Gen­eral Hospi­tal will help ease wait­ing lists for bone-scan­ning pro­ce­dures, say lo­cal health of­fi­cials.

Health Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy, also the MHA for Carbonear-Har­bour Grace, cut the rib­bon on the $107,000 unit Feb. 4 at the hospi­tal, but the scan­ner has been in op­er­a­tion since Novem­ber, 2009. Last fall’s H1N1 out­break pre­vented the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion Pla­cen­tia Health Foun­da­tion, which pur­chased the scan­ner, from un­veil­ing it be­fore now.

Ed. Neil, chair­man of the health foun­da­tion’s board of direc­tors, wel­comed health of­fi­cials, hospi­tal staff, vol­un­teers and board mem­bers to the un­veil­ing. Neil noted the foun­da­tion has do­nated about $ 7 mil­lion, with pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance, in health equip­ment.

“ This is only made pos­si­ble by the over­whelm­ing gen­eros­ity of the res­i­dents of our re­gion — all the peo­ple and fundrais­ers organized by Don ( Coombs, the foun­da­tion’s chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer) in par­tic­u­lar, and of course his teams of vol­un­teers,” said Neil.

Pur­chases made are de­ter­mined on a “pri­or­ity ba­sis” by East­ern Health of­fi­cials, said Neil. “ We don’t de­ter­mine what kind of ma­chin­ery goes in the hospi­tal. This is de­ter­mined by East­ern Health peo­ple. It is through their care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion and con­sul­ta­tion with the health-care ex­perts in the re­gion that pur­chase de­ci­sions are made,” he told the au­di­ence.

Neil said Dr. Calvin Pow­ell and other health ex­perts were early ad­vo­cates of pur­chas­ing a bone-den­sity scan­ner. “It was their ex­pert opin­ion that the early de­tec­tion of os­teo­poro­sis and other bone con­di­tions is a very im­por­tant fac­tor in suc­cess­ful treat­ment, and can vastly im­prove the qual­ity of life for pa­tients with this con­di­tion.”

Neil also an­nounced that this year’s cap­i­tal cam­paign hopes to pur­chase an echocar­dio­gram ma­chine, ex­pected to cost about $250,000. The ma­chine cre­ates an im­age of a pa­tient’s heart that pro­vides cru­cial in­for­ma­tion to a doc­tor. Neil added the foun­da­tion hopes to have the ma­chine in­stalled this year.

Coombs, also the mayor of Habour Grace, said the equip­ment helps the hospi­tal pro­vide top-notch care to ru­ral res­i­dents. “ We live in ru­ral New­found­land, and we’re very lucky to have the hospi­tal that we have here, and we’re very lucky to have the sup­port from East­ern Health that we do have. Be­cause when you’re a doc­tor or tech­ni­cian, you want the best in equip­ment. And that’s what we’re pro­vid­ing here again to­day, is the best of equip­ment.”

Fay Matthews of East­ern Health said some­times com­pet­ing re­sources means it’s of­ten dif­fi­cult to choose one piece of equip­ment over an­other, and praised the high­light­ing of the need for bone-scan­ning by Pow­ell. “It’s been a bit of a long road, be­cause buy­ing equip­ment is more than just buy­ing that bit of equip­ment. You have to have staff, you have to have space, and you have to marry the two. And you also have to have need. And we knew the need was there, but we had to get all of th­ese pieces to­gether to get that puz­zle to­gether.” A big ben­e­fit of the scan­ner will be re­duced wait­ing times, not just here, but in St. John’s, she said.

The health min­is­ter said he was pleased to be at the hospi­tal for such a “good news” story. “ Too of­ten in the health-care sys­tem, we hear the neg­a­tives. We hear the com­plaints, and I un­der­stand that, be­cause we’re deal­ing with peo­ple’s lives, and we’re deal­ing with the frus­tra­tion of wait­ing to have pro­ce­dures done. We’re deal­ing with peo­ple who are in pain. But it’s very im­por­tant that we’ve come for­ward, as a health-care sys­tem and a prov­ince, to ac­knowl­edge the good work that’s done.”

In ad­di­tion to im­prov­ing wait­ing times, said Kennedy, the new equip­ment helps make the lo­cal health-care sys­tem a more at­trac­tive work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for doc­tors and other health­care pro­fes­sion­als. “By pro­vid­ing that equip­ment ... we then at­tract the physi­cians, we at­tract the health pro­fes­sion­als that we need. So what’s hap­pen­ing here ( is) the com­mu­nity work­ing among them­selves to fur­ther the ini­tia­tives that are needed.”

Brian South­well, man­ager of di­ag­nos­tic imag­ing at the hospi­tal, said the scan­ner is con­sid­ered pre­ven­tive medicine for con­di­tions such as os­teo­poro­sis.

“ Usu­ally most ladies, as they go through menopause, have a very sig­nif­i­cant amount of bone loss, so if you get a read­ing pre-menopause then you see what level you’re at, and then once they hit menopause, take an­other read­ing and you’ll see if they start to drop. And if so, then there are dif­fer­ent medicines out there that can help build back up the bones.”

South­well said it will be mostly women who use the ma­chine, but men can some­times be sus­cep­ti­ble to os­teo­poro­sis as well. He said he ex­pects the ma­chine to per­form 12-15 scans per day, five days a week. “The thing about this kind of ser­vice, you won’t need this kind of exam more than ev­ery two years. Os­teo­poro­sis is a very slow process, a slow change in the body. Be­cause of that, if you had a test done, say, to­day ... and if you did it six months from to­day, you wouldn’t see enough change in the body. It’s a very slow process.”

Right now, said South­well, wait times to use the bone-den­sity scan­ner in St. John’s range from 80 to 100 days. “ This (ma­chine) will help this quite a bit.”

Brian South­well, man­ager of di­ag­nos­tic imag­ing at Carbonear Gen­eral Hospi­tal, ex­plains how the hospi­tal’s new bone den­sity unit op­er­ates. The Trin­ity Con­cep­tion Pla­cen­tia Health Foun­da­tion cut the rib­bon Feb. 4 on the unit, which has been in op­er­a­tion at the hospi­tal since Novem­ber, 2009.

Health Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy

Trin­ity Con­cep­tion Pla­cen­tia Health Foun­da­tion board chair­man Ed Neil

Trin­ity Con­cep­tion Pla­cen­tia Health Foun­da­tion chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer Don Coombs.

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