Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) is going to apply to the province for a CT scan machine for the County.

CAO and president, Carolyn Plummer, told The Highlander March 21 that a feasibility study for the diagnostic imaging tool, “has concluded with positive results. We are ready to proceed with an application to the Ministry of Health.”

Plummer said HHHS is grateful to the community for its “overwhelmingly positive” response to news of the study. Without any kind of formal public call for backing, she said they received more than 100 letters of support in just over a week and a half.

“Community members have shared how important it would be for them to have access to a CT scan machine and the potential it has to transform their healthcare experience in the County,” she added.

HHHS will continue to collect letters of support for its application. Plummer said they can be emailed to Michel Henry at mhenry@hhhs.ca

“Given the transportation challenges faced by so many in our community, HHHS knows that being able to have a scanner within the County would be of great benefit for our patients,” the head of the hospital services said.

She added that thanks to their integration with the diagnostic imaging department at Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay, scans can be read by a radiologist off-site, with the results communicated back to physicians in the County, so they can take action with their patients.

“This is similar to how our X-ray, ultrasound, and bone density scans happen now; it is common practice at many small hospitals across the province, and is common practice at many larger hospitals after-hours,” she added.

Plummer said, “It’s no small matter to be able to offer scans close to home.”

Foundation and County behind HHHS ask

Director of emergency services for the County of Haliburton, Tim Waite, at a Jan. 11 meeting of council, said EMS services transported 357 people out of the County for CT scans in 2021, a 55 per cent increase over 2020.

When ambulances are out of the County for these transfers, they are gone for hours at a time, often with one of HHHS nurses, and they can receive calls for service in other communities, which decreases the number of ambulances that are available for 911 response in Haliburton County and therefore increases the time it takes to respond to emergency calls, Plummer said.

Another factor, she noted, was recruitment efforts to attract new physicians and healthcare professionals to Haliburton County. “We hear time and time again that new physicians are trained with the expectation that they will have easy access to CT scan equipment for diagnostic purposes, as it has become a standard of care. Having a CT scan machine in the County would support these recruitment efforts, as well as the retention of current physicians and nurses in our community.”

HHHS Foundation executive director Melanie Klodt Wong said the foundation is there to support the needs of the hospitals, and healthcare in the County. “It’s extremely apparent to us that this is important to residents and visitors in Haliburton County, and HHHS has identified CT as a priority, so, of course, we’re supportive.”

She acknowledged it is “a big ask,” using estimates of $2.5 to $3 million “but we’re still working on the numbers.”

She said they have started to pre-plan, such as figuring out how much money they would have to raise, and how they might go about it.

Klodt Wong added pre-planning will continue, “so that once it is approved, we can hit the ground running. Until we get that approval, we’ll be here, and we’ll be cheering them on and hoping for the best…”

She said the foundation is already receiving support for the project, from the public and community groups, as “they see the need. This is something we want. And it is going to cost a lot of money.”

A CT scanner falls under diagnostic imaging and Klodt Wong said they also want to ensure other tools, such as X-rays and ultrasounds, continue to be replaced.

The County has thrown its support behind a CT scan machine.

At that Jan. 11 County of Haliburton meeting, Coun. Walt McKechnie said, “it’s a priority for a lot of people, especially those getting older. This is something we should be taking a hold of and trying to help get these machines in our hospitals. It just makes so much sense.”