Recent History – 2000
March 9, 2000, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
The Dawson Creek and District Hospital is in line to get a new computerized tomography (CT) scanner within the next one to three years.
Sheila Barnes, director of development for the Dawson Creek and District Hospital Foundation, said Tuesday that the hospital is on the province’s replacement cycle for the machine.
And she owes the good news to securing the hospital’s current CT scanner in the first place. That machine arrived here in the summer of 1998.
“The request came from the Ministry of Health for us to consider this particular machine with the understanding that it would be replaced with newer technology within three to five years,” she said.
“And based on our desire to get the program into the hospital and get it up and running for the people of the northeast, we felt it was important to work with the government to have that happen.”
CT scanners use a concentrated x-ray to get images that are cross-sections or “slices.” The width of the slice ranges from 1.5 mm., used to scan fine structures like the tiny little bones in the middle of the ear, to 10 mm., for screening chests and abdomen. Although used mostly to detect tumours, they can also help to find other problems, like bone chips and infections.
Barnes said she’s heard comments that the hospital’s current scanner isn’t up to standard and that it was breaking down from time to time. But Dr. Leroy Erickson, the hospital’s radiologist, said he’s happy with the way it’s worked.
“I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how well this refurbished equipment is working for us and we’re pleased with the output in terms of the quality of the images, and in terms of the up time for the equipment,” he said.
But Erickson also said that the technology for CT scanners has improved greatly since the hospital’s current model was made.
“It’s like a 10-year-old computer,” he said. “Even though it’s a very expensive computer, it’s 10 years old, and there’ve been fantastic improvements.”
Erickson and Barnes are hoping to see a spiral CT scanner come through the hospital doors one day. Spiral CT scanners need less than a minute to get a batch of images whereas the current one takes 15 minutes.
Moreover, the spiral CT scanner can get images without requiring the patient to hold his or her breath.
“With ours, the patient has to be co-operative, and you can’t look at things where there is motion such as blood flow in blood vessels, whereas with the new equipment one can do that,” Erickson said.
“The big advantage is that we can see blood vessels in the head, as the contrast material moves through it, rather than just seeing the structures in the head after everything has stabilized.”
A spiral CT scanner costs about $900,000. Barnes said that about $392,000 in seed money has been put away in a trust account for the new scanner.
Barnes said that through the province’s capital replacement program they replace equipment on an annual basis through bulk purchases.
“So rather than buying one CT scanner they’ll buy 10 CT scanners and they’ll replace 10, and they’ll get a much better price,” she said. “So we’re part of a bulk purchase program and replacement of this equipment on a cycle.”
Serving the entire northeast and some points in Alberta, the CT scanner is used on about 1,800 patients each year. Prior to its arrival, patients had to go to go to Grande Prairie, Edmonton, Prince George, or Vancouver to get a CT scan.