Highlands residents will be able to get CT scans and mammograms at Haliburton hospital beginning next spring.

Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) acting CEO Veronica Nelson announced July 7 the province had approved its application for a CT scanner.

Haliburton Highlands is the only county in Ontario without one.

In a hospital room that will house the two machines, Nelson said, “the ability to support our patients from the moment they enter our facility, to the instant we have the diagnostic information to treat them, HHHS will soon be able to provide end-to-end diagnosis that truly puts our patients first.”

She handed the podium to MPP Laurie Scott, who said, “we know that early detection and diagnosis of a health issue is more than just a matter of convenience. It has an immense benefit on a person’s quality of life, prognosis and treatment plan. With this new equipment, people in Haliburton County and surrounding areas can expect to receive quicker access to the diagnostic imaging services they need closer to home. Not only will this equipment directly help our community receive diagnostic services but it will alleviate the pressures faced by our local EMS teams and allow them to reduce transportation time outside the area.”

Mammography unit also coming

County EMS chief Tim Waite said the news “was better than Christmas for us.” He added he could not emphasize enough how “game-changing” it was for his paramedic service. “Presently we transport more than 350 patients a year outside of the County to receive specialized diagnostic care. That represents over 2,000 hours that ambulances are outside the County. We will have more ambulances remaining in the County to provide that 911 coverage to all the residents and visitors of Haliburton County.”

Deputy-warden Dave Burton, on behalf of the County, said it was “excellent news, and pretty much all I have to say is ‘wow’.” He added it would go a long way towards furthering efforts to recruit and retain new physicians to the area.

Expertise in diagnostic imaging

Scott singled out Nelson for her work in getting the tools. She said the acting HHHS president has expertise in diagnostic imaging, and her assistance was beneficial to the process.

Nelson said CT scanning has become the standard of care for the diagnosis of many life-threatening conditions, such as stroke, trauma, lung blood clots, and in the investigation of abdominal pain. She added physicians are being trained with this in mind and expect hospitals to have these services available to them.

“If your parent, sibling, or friend falls and hits their head and requires a CT scan, they will no longer have to be sent by ambulance to the nearest CT scan over an hour away. Instead, they will be wheeled down this hall, into this room, to have their CT in that corner. Those images will be electronically sent to a radiologist immediately after they’re taken and reported. If warranted, the emergency physician can immediately access a neurosurgeon who has access to view those images at the same time through the Emergency Neurosurgery Image Transfer system. This expedites care decisions and referral to tertiary centres.”

Nelson added mammography is one the most effective ways of detecting breast cancer in women, and the application was supported by Cancer Care Ontario. With the addition of this service, she said it would benefit more than 6,000 at-risk women who live in the Highlands.

“In this room, when your mother, your wife or you require immediate detection services, they will access mammography in this very room, in the corner. They will get the answers they need to manage their care close to home.”

Since the province does not fund capital equipment in hospitals, the Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation (HHHSF) will be tasked with leading a community fundraising campaign.

Executive-director, Melanie Klodt Wong, said, “we are thrilled to see this approval come through and we are committed to raising the funds needed with the support of the community.” Nelson estimated the cost at between $3-3.5 million.

Klodt Wong added the foundation is working towards launching a major capital campaign in the “near future” now that HHHS has the go ahead.

Mixed feelings over announcement

Patrick Porzuczek said he was at the Haliburton ER when the announcement was being made elsewhere in the facility last Friday.

He claimed, “the HHHS site is a standing waiting room at the moment. This, unfortunately, is not accessible, quality health care. This is chaos.”

The face of Save Minden Ontario Emergency Room added “no CT scanner or other new technology is going to bring nurses and doctors here when the hospital lacks the priorities and abilities to make it work. Put the money back into the Minden ER where it was working.”

He reiterated a call for the HHHS executive and board to resign, calling on the ministry of health to put a supervisor in place.

Chris Kaye posted to the Save site anticipating “flack” for commenting, “it’s my personal opinion that the County of Haliburton needs a CT scanner. Sure, you can get sent to hospitals in Bracebridge, Huntsville, Lindsay, Peterborough. However, if you’re in rough shape, or it’s a major snowstorm, it’s added pain, stress and worry for the patient and their family.”

Kaye went on to say, “I do not believe it should be an either/ or decision. It almost seems like the PC government is giving residents a golden carrot (by approving the scanner). There’s no mention of reopening Minden hospital ER. They are playing political games here folks. We need both hospitals and a CT scanner.”