Although a shortage of technicians now forces Nelson area residents to travel to Trail for heart ultrasounds, Interior Health says it doesn’t foresee any problems staffing the new CT scanner at Kootenay Lake Hospital.
“Training for CT techs is quite different from the training for ultrasound,” says Thalia Vesterback, director of diagnostic imaging. “It’s not as much of a time investment.”
She explains CT technologists take correspondence courses through BCIT followed by a four-month practicum, whereas ultrasound techs have to be on site for a 27-month program.
Vesterback says they have one technologist in training, who won’t necessarily do the job in Nelson, but will “supplement the number of techs we have in the region to ensure we have enough to staff both CT scanners.”
The regional hospital in Trail has four regular technicians, plus two or three others who can provide relief. The scanner is staffed Monday to Friday, and techs are also on call after hours so there is 24-hour coverage.
“You need enough technologists to share the workload but also to ensure they’re getting enough work to maintain their expertise,” Vesterback says.
At first, only one person will run the scanner in Nelson, five days a week. But Interior Health will look at options for increasing staffing.
“Do we start cross-training other technologists? Hire others? It’s going to take a bit of time to ramp up the service because we have to maintain 24-hour coverage in Trail,” Vesterback says.
“We don’t want to shortchange the service in Nelson by any means, but we do need to balance the needs of the region and ensure we are meeting all the services required for the population of Kootenay Boundary.”
The Nelson technologist job won’t be posted until they know exactly when the space will be ready and the scanner will arrive, Vesterback says. Whoever is hired will be given lead time to get the service operating.
“We are doing projections about what we think our requirements will be, looking at the upcoming addition of the CT scanner in Nelson plus retirements,” she says.
The $1.5 million piece of equipment, paid for by the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation following a massive community fundraising campaign, is expected to arrive in the spring.