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CT scanner lauded by public, staff

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“It was well worth the wait.”

It was a phrase heard time and again last Thursday afternoon as more than 100 district residents celebrated the new CT scanner during a grand-opening ceremony at La Verendrye Hospital.

“It’s well-needed here,” said Sam Arbuckle, adding having the CT scanner in Rainy River District really helps those who have had to, or would have to, travel to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg to access such a service.

“It’s not only the travel,” noted Arbuckle. “When you get there, you have to stay overnight. It’s the time it takes.

“You could drive to Winnipeg in four hours, but you try and get a CT scan, you’re there for eight hours.”

Harry Jones agreed it’s very difficult to go elsewhere for a CT scan, get it done, and then return home in the same day.

“I’ve had to go away for two or three scans. I think it’s wonderful,” echoed June Keddie, adding the fact the CT scanner became a reality here is “amazing for a small community.”

“We always seem to pull together here,” she enthused. “It’s a good place to live and a good hospital. I’ve had all my surgery at the hospital here, and it’s just been great.”

“I think it’s wonderful. People don’t realize until they need it how lucky they are to be able to access it, and not have to travel,” said La Vallee Reeve Emily Watson, a former Riverside board member and current president of the Rainy River District Municipal Association.

“The service is wonderful. It’s close to home, it’s immediate, and I think people are so lucky to have it here.”

The grand opening also was a chance for the public to learn more about the Toshiba Aquilion 64-slice CT scanner now benefitting district patients. This included viewing of a brief video featuring the CT scanner in action, narrated by X-ray/ultrasound technologist Bernie Rittau, and a tour of the CT scanning room, with explanations provided by X-ray technologists Mark Addison and Tiffany Dolyny, along with Toshiba representative Nick Myskos.

The first patient was scanned here Aug. 5, with more than 200 patients having used it since then.

Currently, the diagnostic imaging staff at La Verendrye is conducting about five-eight scans a day. The CT scanner is used to look at everything from strokes to abnormalities in the abdomen and pelvis.

CT (or computed tomography) is a medical imaging method in which digital geometry processing is used to generate a three-dimensional image of the inside of an object from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken around a single axis of rotation.

In simplest terms, a patient is injected with a dye and then lies down on a wide bed as the gantry (the doughnut-shaped piece containing the imaging equipment) spins around them at high speed.

The model incorporates leading-edge technology and ergonomic features to speed productivity while increasing patient comfort. Scanning is very fast (it usually only takes 10 seconds) and if the desired images are found in an shorter time, the scanning process can be stopped even sooner.

(Since the scanning involves exposure to radiation, the amount of radiation the patient has to be exposed to is minimized if at all possible. A wide variety of dose control tools help minimize radiation exposure to patients and staff by up to 40 percent compared with older CT scanners).

The scanning process enables technologists to capture numerous detailed images—in fact, 64 simultaneous “slices” only 0.5 mm thick—of the area being scanned to enable the most accurate diagnosis of whatever the medical situation may warrant.

The digital information is transferred instantly to computers in the adjoining control room. This data then can be manipulated in whatever way necessary for the radiologist to be able to read the images and create a report about what appears to be wrong with the patient.

“I’ve seen some of the pictures here that have just floored me,” noted Addison. “In general X-ray work, you might see a fracture in the back, somewhere in the spine, and it may be visible or it may not, but certainly not really clearly. When you’ve got a CT scan to take a look at it, it stands out like a beacon.

“It’s incredible the difference it makes in situations like that because then you know something’s got to be done and it’s got to be done in a hurry.

“As we go along, and as each of us here learns a bit more about the procedures and how to operate this a little bit better as we go—because there is a large learning curve, no doubt about that—things will get even better,” he added.

The resulting images are stored on computer, and can be looked at by doctors here as well as sent electronically anywhere in the world to be viewed by specialists.

A time to celebrate

Last Thursday’s grand opening also was a time to recognize those who made the CT scanner a reality, whether they were the “Just Imagine” campaign committee, hospital staff, or district residents.

“I’d like to thank you and welcome you all on behalf of Riverside Health Care Facilities and Riverside Foundation for Health Care on this very exciting occasion, the official opening of our CT scanner, in which all of you played an important role in making it happen,” said Riverside Foundation director Teresa Hazel.

“It feels nice to complete this. I know the fundraising started a couple years ago, and funds were raised really fast,” she continued. “It took a little bit longer to get the CT scanner here, but it’s very exciting to finally have it here.

“It’s being well-utilized by the residents of the Rainy River District, so it feels like a completion in one part, but an exciting new beginning for Riverside in providing this great new service.”

Deane Cunningham, chair of the “Just Imagine” campaign and current chair of the Riverside Foundation’s board of directors, said he’s still amazed at the success of the drive to raise more than $1.5 million to acquire the CT scanner.

Back on Oct. 20, 2006, the Riverside Foundation kicked off its campaign to raise $1.5 million for the purchase of the CT scanner. On what Cunningham called “an amazing day,” Fort Frances resident Bill Michl ran from Rainy River to Fort Frances—the equivalent of more than two marathons.

“The campaign hit its stride early, thank to Bill, and with the hard work of the ‘Just Imagine’ committee and the generosity of district residents, we reached the $1-million [mark] by Jan. 16, 2007,” Cunningham noted.

January, or “Scanuary” as the committee called it, continued to be a profitable month after a “radio-a-thon” held Jan. 24 in the hospital cafeteria ended up raising $181,000 in just four hours.

On March 6, 2007, the campaign reached its goal of $1.5 million—less than five months after Michl’s run.

While Michl couldn’t be on hand in person last Thursday, his daughter, Teila, accepted a gift on his behalf—the “The Run for the Scan” banner which hung on the back of the pickup truck that accompanied Michl on his run.

Cunningham also saluted the “Just Imagine” campaign committee, which consisted of Hazel, assistant Sandra Beadle, communications chair Jim Cumming, major gift co-chairs Clare Brunetta and John McTaggart, east district co-chairs Dick and Carol Lyons, central district co-chairs Wendy Judson and Heather Oltsher, and west district co-chairs Bob and Brigitta McGreevy.

The committee also included Patti Johnson, manager of diagnostic services for Riverside, Dr. Barry Anderson, then-Foundation chair Larry Cousineau, Riverside president and CEO Wayne Woods, and Riverside Health Care Facilities board chair Robin Wright.

Many other volunteers also helped out with the campaign.

Cunningham noted the hospital staff supported the campaign, as well, saying their “involvement was truly outstanding.” He also thanked Woods and the Riverside board for having vision by creating a space for the CT scanner during the recent Phase IV renovations at La Verendrye and then bringing the important diagnostic tool here.

And he thanked district media for keeping the campaign “front and centre, constantly making it a newsworthy event.”

Last but not least, Cunningham stressed the role of district residents in the campaign.

“You gave individually, you gave in community groups and other organizations, businesses large and small, employee groups, trade unions, First Nations, and municipalities . . . your many gifts have raised the level of health care available to the residents of the Rainy River District by making the CT scanner a reality,” he remarked.

Cousineau then presented Cunningham with a large teddy bear wearing a “Just Imagine” campaign T-shirt as a show of thanks for heading up the fundraising campaign.

A framed “Just Imagine” campaign T-shirt, and a photo commemorating the $1.5 million raised by district residents, also was unveiled during Thursday’s ceremony. This will hang in the CT scanning room in the diagnostic imaging department.

Woods said the grand opening was “another opportunity for us, Riverside, to demonstrate our motto, which is ‘Care Close to Home,’ and being the centre of excellence for rural and northern health care.”

“Our facility, our staff, and our machinery and equipment is absolutely second-to-none, and we’re very proud of that,” he remarked, adding the new Toshiba 64-slice CT scanner is “the envy of many of our partners in the north.”

“People will not have to travel the way they did before, they don’t have to leave our community in order to get this valuable service, and I think it’s going to move forward in a great fashion and really benefit the people of this district,” stressed Woods.

As for the future, Woods said Riverside now will turn to a $2-million renovation project at Rainycrest Long-term Care here.

“I think that’s another great thing, and no, you won’t have to contribute to that. It’s all taken care of . . . I do have a signed letter [from the province] stating that $2 million is on the way,” he remarked.

Ontario NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton also shared a few words Thursday.

“What many people don’t realize is neither the province or the federal government funds CT scans,” he noted. “There’s no funding envelope—you have to raise the money locally—and so this was all done here, between Rainy River in the west and Atikokan in the east, up to Nestor Falls, and Berglund and Morson, Barwick and Stratton, and Devlin and La Vallee, and First Nation communities.

“This is something we should all give ourselves a pat on the back for.

“And it’s going to make a huge difference,” Hampton added. “Twenty-five years ago, CT scans were new, sexy technology. Today, it’s basic to medicine. You want to recruit new physicians to your community, you need to have a CT scan.

It’s one of those basic diagnostic tools now.

“And it will make a huge difference for patients. The number of people that call my office and say, ‘Why do I have to travel to Winnipeg? Why do I have to travel to Thunder Bay? Why do I have to travel to Duluth?’

“This will make a huge difference; it already is,” Hampton stressed.

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