It's the news that local health professionals and southeast Saskatchewan residents alike have been pining to hear: a computed tomography (CT) scanner will be coming to St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan, likely in 2015.
Saskatchewan Rural and Remote Health Minister Tim McMillan made the announcement on June 27. Representatives from the hospital and its foundation, the local health committee, the Sun Country Health Region and the Ministry of Health were also in attendance.
“This announcement is one we've been waiting for,” said St. Joseph's Hospital CEO Greg Hoffort.
Sun Country Health Region CEO Marga Cugnet noted a CT scanner can be used on stroke victims, for example, reducing the long-term health consequences of such an incident. It can also confirm appendicitis, allowing surgeons can operate immediately.
St. Joseph's board chair Donn Kindopp added that the CT scanner will help diagnose injuries for accident victims.
“CT scanning is useful to get a very detailed, 3D image of certain parts of the body, such as soft tissues, the pelvis, blood vessels, the lungs, brain, abdomen and bones,” said Kindopp.
Hoffort said the announcement reflects the commitment of municipal, regional and provincial representatives to bring a CT scan to Estevan.
According to the Ministry of Health, the number of patients receiving CT service in Saskatchewan has increased 22 per cent since 2008-09, from 79,856 in 2008-09 to an expected 97,330 in 2014-15. The Sun Country Health Region was one of only three regions in the province that didn't have a CT scanner, and Estevan was Saskatchewan's largest city without the service.
“Demand for medical imaging services is increasing as our province’s population continues to grow,” Minister responsible for Rural and Remote Health Tim McMillan said. “Adding CT services in Estevan will help reduce wait times for medical imaging services in southern Saskatchewan, so patients can get the care they need sooner.”
Residents in the far southeast corner of the province have to travel three hours to Regina if they are to access the technology.
But before a CT scanner arrives in Estevan, the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation will have to raise $2 million to purchase the equipment, renovate the designated area, install the device and pay for start-up costs.
According to a media release from the foundation, it will cost $1.2 million to purchase the machine, and $800,000 to cover the remaining costs.
Support is already pouring in.
Dorothy Yoner was the first to commit; she and her late husband, Steve, pledged $60,000 last year when they found out about the hospital's plan to purchase the machine. Hoffort noted that Steve Yoner was a regular patient at the hospital, and a favourite of the hospital's staff.
The Mainprize Manor Trust Committee was the next group to step forward with a donation, as they are supplying $100,000.
Ron and Shirley Carson of Lampman have also donated $500,000; the CT scan/x-ray department will be called the Ron and Shirley Carson Diagnostic Centre.
"When considering our contribution to the CT scan services at St. Joseph's Hospital, we feel that it is a way we can give back to the entire community in southeast Saskatchewan, because that is where our customers, staff, friends and family are from," said Ron Carson.
A consortium of 15 municipalities will contribute about $500,000 towards the campaign.
Thus far they have raised $1.1 million, and Hoffort is confident that the southeast region will contribute the remaining $900,000.
“Regardless of if it's an events centre or a nursing home or now a CT scan, they rise to the occasion time and time again,” said Hoffort.
The Ministry of Health will eventually assume responsibility for the $1 million per year in operating costs.
Estevan's quest to secure a CT scanner began early in 2013, with an offer to purchase the machine, and to operate in the early stages. But the technology wasn't included in the 2013 or 2014 provincial budgets. Hoffort never lost confidence that it would happen.
“Right from the time we presented the minister with the proposal, we never once received a 'no,'” said Hoffort. “Until today, it wasn't a 'Yes,' and now it was thankfully confirmed today. We remained optimistic the whole time.”
Hoffort said there are a couple areas in the diagnostic imaging department could house the CT scan. The goal is to complete the project in-house, without an expansion, because of financial and practicality purposes.
The diagnostic department is also next door to the emergency room, and the hospital wants the two to be as close together as possible, for the sake of the service they provide to patients.