It’s a symbol of the future of health care in Nelson that’s been years in the making and took a massive community fundraising drive to bring to reality.
Last week, the prized CT scanner finally arrived.
On Thursday afternoon construction crews at the new Kootenay Lake Hospital emergency room were working frantically to put the finishing touches on the $15 million renovation project. Amongst the construction clatter, just after 3 p.m. the prized $1 million-plus piece of medical technology pulled up to the front doors.
“The delivery of the CT scanner represents the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication at a range of levels in the community of Nelson and surrounding areas,” said Pat Dooley, Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation chair.
“The scanner is symbolic of the value of working collaboratively in partnership for enhanced health care, and the purchase of this important piece of equipment would not have been possible without the generosity and initiative of so many organizations and individuals.”
As part of the new wing at the hospital, locals pledged to fundraise enough money to purchase the equipment if the provincial government agreed to pay for the annual operating costs. A deal was struck, the community stepped forward in incredible fashion and when the new wing of the building opens — most likely in late November — patients in need of a CT scan will no longer have to travel to Trail to get it done.
The scanner is a General Electric 64 slice unit. GE technicians arrived with the scanner — which was assembled and trucked from Milwaukee — and spent three days hooking it up.
A STANDARD TOOL
CT scanners have been around since the late 1970s. At one time they were leading edge technology, but today the diagnostic tools are standard equipment in most hospitals
“It’s basically a very specialized x-ray machine that produces two-dimensional images — slices through the body,” explained Thalia Vesterback, health service director of diagnostic imaging for Interior Health. “It’s kind of like looking at a loaf of bread a slice at a time.”
All parts of the body can be examined by a CT scanner.
It is useful with bony structure, air filled structure, organs and soft tissue. It is very useful with trauma patients because of the speed with which images can be produced. Vesterback added the tool is also important when dealing with cancer patients.
“This is about trying to bring care closer to home,” said Vesterback. “We are trying to reduce the trips that people have to take to Trail by offering them services closer to where they live.”
The brand new CT scanner is the latest technology, with the older unit at Trail’s Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital being a 32-slice scanner.
EASING INTO THE SYSTEM
When the new emergency department opens in late November, it’s expected the CT scanner will be up and running.
“We’re starting with a limited test venue,” said Vesterback. “As the technologists and the radiologists get more comfortable with what we are doing, we will build on the successes that we get and expand the menu of tests that are done.”
Interior Health recently hired CT technologist Tineke Reese. She has been trained on the new machine by General Electric and was on hand for the delivery. Reese is currently the only tech and will also work in the x-ray department.
The CT scanner will run daytime hours, Monday to Friday for a year, at which time there will be a review. Vesterback said the goal is to provide 24/7 service on the local CT.
“We need to ensure we balance out both sites [Nelson and Trail] and that we can maintain high quality service in both,” said Vesterback.
The cost to operate the Nelson CT scanner is $300,000 a year. If Interior Health does go to a 24/7 situation, the additional costs would be $60,000.
“That has not been taken from any existing Nelson budgets,” Vesterback said of the $300,000. “There will not be any impact to the operational costs of the Nelson hospital for this service.”
Though waitlists for the CT scanner in this region of Interior Health are relatively low — two to three weeks — the addition of the Nelson scanner to the mix should have an impact on those waiting for a CT.
“You would assume so, but I can’t comment on what those will be,” said Vesterback. “We will have to see as the service settles out and how it works out.”
Dooley said the arrival is a great victory for the Foundation and the community.
“On behalf of the board of directors of Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation, I want to thank everyone who played a role in getting the CT scanner installed from the bottom of my heart,” said Dooley.
What’s in store at the new $15 million upgrade
Besides the CT scanner addition, here are some upgrades that are part of the new emergency room:
• 291 square metre ER
• single entrance – ambulance and walk-in through same ER waiting room
• 7 stretchers – curtained
• 1 IV chair
• 1 trauma room/1 cast room
• 1 general use bathroom inside the department (staff and public)
• nursing triage area
• admitting clerk area
• 924 square metre ER
• approx. 700 square metres of shelled-in basement space
• separate entrances for ambulance and walk-ins
• 7 stretchers with partial walls for additional privacy
• fully-equipped gynecological room with bathroom
• 2 isolation rooms (for potential contagious patients)
• 1 cast room
• 1 large fully equipped trauma room with 2 stretchers
• 2 observation rooms in quieter, back area for patients who may need to be held as short stay, located for easy bathroom access
• seclusion room for mental health patients
• 2 public bathrooms and 1 staff bathroom
• decontamination room (handling patients affected by chemical spills)
• new fast track area for ER patients who do not need a stretcher
• larger, glassed station providing more privacy for charting, medications and physicians doing dictation and reading x-rays
• larger nursing triage area