CT scanner to aid Houston and area patients

Scanner approved for Bulkley Valley District Hospital in Smithers

Houston and area patients are to benefit from CT scan services coming to the Bulkley Valley District Hospital (BVDH) in Smithers.

“It is incredible news,” said health services administrator Cormac Hikisch from the Northern Health Authority. “It has been a many-year journey and this is certainly the biggest health care news we’ve had in the Bulkley Valley in more than a decade. It is incredible and we are certainly excited to move into planning mode.”

The project has been approved in Northern Health’s 2018/2019 capital cycle and Hikisch said hopefully it will be implemented in late 2018. There are planning sessions starting this week to get the ball rolling.

CT scans are special X-ray tests that produce cross-sectional images of the body using X-rays and a computer.

There is an estimated 3,000 CT procedures a year that are done for patients from the Smither hospital’s catchment area which runs from Burns Lake to Hazelton.

Most patients are sent to Terrace and Prince George for the service.

“It will help with decision making for local medical staff with the patient. A simple example is someone on a c-spine, can we clear that c-spine? A CT may allow that decision to be made in Smithers before any transfer of a patient,” Hikisch said.

“Also, stroke protocol in the emergency room: there are certain treatment plans that can be made relatively quickly with an available CT scan. As well, just the outpatient opportunities: many people require a CT during their health care journey and have had to travel and wait for an appointment.”

The project comes with a $2.9-million price tag, which includes equipment and renovations required to install it at BVDH.

The Bulkley Valley Health Care and Hospital Foundation recently met their fundraising goal of $1.75 million to help bring the service to Smithers. This amount includes the donation from Frtiz Pfeiffer of $1.6 million.

Other sponsors include the Smithers Celebrity Golf Tournament, Seabridge Gold, Bulkley Valley Kinsmen and other individuals and businesses.

As well, an upcoming BV Kinsmen truck demolition derby, comedy night and dance on May 5 will raise funds for it.

“We are elated, we are so happy,” said foundation executive director Laurel Menzel.

“It came together more quickly than we could’ve imagined. It is something a lot of members in the community have talked about and approached me about. Having a CT scanner available in Smithers will reduce the rate of families having to travel as well as reduce the rate of having people get medevaced out of Smithers. Having that diagnostic tool right here in Smithers is big deal.”

The remainder of the money will come through the regional hospital district via property taxes and the Ministry of Health.

The chairman of the Smithers Celebrity Golf Tournament is also excited with the news.

The biennial event that raises money for the Bulkley Valley Health Care and Hospital Foundation brought in $90,000 last year for the CT scanner project.

“When Fritz made the donation, we thought it was a great idea to get behind,” said Kent Delwisch. “A lot of the work we’ve done in the past has been raising money for the health care and hospital foundation. Most of us are familiar with the need for equipment and how hard it is to get funding for that.”

Delwisch said he heard some opposition to the idea to support the project at first.

“When we first decided to do it, we talked to some members of the hospital and a few local doctors. There were a few people who suggested it would never happen. There was even one or two members of the health care foundation that thought we’d never get the money raised. It wasn’t that people were upset with us choosing the project but a lot of people didn’t think we’d get far,” he said.

Delwisch knows it is still a while before things get installed but the dream has become a reality.

“It is a great item to have for a small town. It is too bad that it is that tough to get a CT scanner. It is crazy that we have to do as much local fundraising has we’ve had to do in order to make it happen but I guess that is what a small community has to do when we are up against those challenges,” he added.

Hikisch added the CT services are just one of the exciting things happening for diagnostic imaging at the Smithers hospital.

“We’ve just implemented the digital mammography unit and we just replaced our ultrasound unit, which was about a $250,000 investment. The radiology room has also been approved for replacement in the near future, which is about a $900,000 project,” he said.

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Telkwa’s Fritz Pfeiffer (centre) is giving $1.6 million to the Bulkley Valley Health Care & Hospital Foundation for a CT scanner in Smithers. (Chris Duncan photo)

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