DI equipment underused at Montreal super-hospital
June 22, 2016
MONTREAL – The McGill University Hospital Centre, a large and new facility that purchased $255 million worth of top-of-the-line equipment, is unable to keep key pieces running due to a shortage of operating capital. The list includes a positron emission tomography (PET) machine to detect cancer, two MRI scanners, two CT scanners and at least one ultrasound device.
The Montreal Gazette reports that a CT scanner sits idle in the emergency room during weekdays and is used only at night and on weekends. Emergency patients who need a CT scan for head and other injuries on weekdays must be wheeled to the second floor’s radiology department, which is already short-staffed.
The superhospital’s ER is much busier than the MUHC anticipated, with the medical staff sometimes resorting to calling a Code Purple – a designation for when the ER has reached its limit and can no longer take more patients.
In March, the MUHC feared it might no longer be able to run the positron emission tomography scanner at the Glen site. MUHC officials pleaded with the government for funding, but were turned down.
To keep the machine operating, the MUHC diverted funds from one part of its budget to continue using the PET scanner, but that machine and other medical-imaging equipment are not being run to their fullest capacity, sources said.
Marie-Claude Raynault, a union executive representing medical technicians at the MUHC, drew an analogy between the superhospital and a jumbo jet that boasts the latest high-tech equipment – but with something critical missing.
“Can you imagine sending the most advanced jet in the world to cross the Atlantic without enough fuel?” Raynault asked. “That’s the way I see what the government is doing to the MUHC.”
Raynault accused the Quebec Health Department of purposely withholding the funds necessary to operate the scanners.
“The government knew that the MUHC was planning to purchase this equipment for the Glen site,” added Raynault, of the Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux. “But the moment the Glen site opened (on April 26, 2015), the government said, ‘You have your equipment, but you will have to maintain it with your regular budget.’”
Julie White, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette’s press attaché, denied that was the case.
“It should be noted that the institution purchased all the equipment with the support of the foundation – equipment that was not included in the clinical plan, notably an MRI machine and a linear accelerator,” White said.
Regardless of whether the equipment was approved, the super-hospital’s radiology department is struggling with half the normal staffing levels, a long-time employee told the Gazette. “It’s very stressful for the staff,” said the technician, who also confirmed that the medical-imaging machines are not being used to their full potential.