Rural communities raise issue of aging medical equipment
July 6, 2016
SYDNEY, N.S. – Aging surgical and radiological technologies in Cape Breton – and across Canada – mean that patients are often receiving less than optimal care. “The old technologies are on their way out,” said Dr. Victor Hugo (pictured), an anesthesiologist at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. “It is hard to get parts and get maintenance on them.”
“We have to be up-to-date with the technology, otherwise we’re going to be behind. We won’t be able to provide to our patients safer care,” Dr. Hugo told CTV News.
A campaign called Operation Heart, launched earlier this month, is calling on the community to raise $1.4 million for new technology. They’re hoping to reach their goal by this time next year.
More than 11,000 surgeries are performed at Cape Breton Regional Hospital and over 7,000 Cape Breton residents have been diagnosed with heart disease.
“It’s a very high-risk period for patients, so having monitors that are up to date and effective is crucial,” said Dr. Paul MacDonald, head of cardiology at the hospital. “Our hospitals monitors are about 20 years old and really do need to be replaced.”
At a rally in June in Sydney, over 1,000 residents voiced their concerns about the healthcare system in the province. Without up-to-date technologies, doctors are hesitant to stay in the region.
Progressive Conservative MLA Alfie MacLeod, who helped organize the rally, says he’s surprised the community is being asked to fund new medical upgrades.
“The question has always been, ‘Why are so many doctors leaving?’ Well, maybe now we’re hearing part of the answer,” said MacLeod.
Doctors say they’ve met physicians interested in coming to Cape Breton, but will only do so if specific pieces of equipment are available.
Other communities across Canada are facing the dilemma of aging and obsolete equipment.
Moreover, they are often faced with the challenge of raising the money to buy the equipment, as provincial health ministries in many cases will fund operating costs but not capital costs.
Smaller communities are at a disadvantage when it comes to fund-raising, and residents must often travel to bigger centres to obtain the benefits of advanced equipment and the doctors, nurses and technologists who work with it.
Earlier this year, Dr. William Miller, president of the Canadian Association of Radiologists, told Canadian Healthcare Technology magazine:
“Historically, out-of-date equipment has been a big problem in Canada. However, you remember back in 2004 there was a federal health accord and with that came investment in new equipment on the order of a billion dollars. That was a tremendous boost to Canada’s radiology infrastructure. But it has never been repeated, so here we are some 12 years down the road, faced with aging equipment that needs to be replaced again, or at the very least updated.”