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.
Trinity Conception Placentia Health Foundation board chairman Ed Neil
Trinity Conception Placentia Health Foundation chief development officer Don Coombs.