Hospital reaches out for funding support

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Dr. Victor Varma, a radiologist at the Chatham Campus of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, talks about the limitations of aging equipment used in the Diagnostic Imaging Department at the hospital. A fundraising drive is underway to replace much of it.
Dr. Victor Varma, a radiologist at the Chatham Campus of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, talks about the limitations of aging equipment used in the Diagnostic Imaging Department at the hospital. A fundraising drive is underway to replace much of it.

 

If there are five more people such as Wiet Peeters, the Foundation of Chatham-Kent Health Alliance is only five donors away from replacing the hospital’s aging diagnostic imaging equipment.

But the reality is there likely aren’t five other people in Chatham-Kent ready to match what Peeters did recently – donate $1 million to the foundation. That funding is going towards the $6.9-million first phase of purchasing replacement ultrasound units, a CT scanner, a fluoroscope, and bone densitometer.

Peeters, founder of Peeters Mushroom Farm in Charing Cross, made the donation and shirked the limelight, declining to speak to the media, preferring to let his seven-figure donation speak volumes.

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The foundation announced Oct. 15 it is now focused on raising the $6.9 million to upgrade diagnostic equipment, after recently completing a $1-million effort for cardiac care equipment, and $500,000 for diagnostic equipment at Wallaceburg’s Sydenham Campus of the CKHA.

The donation by Peeters has doubled the fundraising for the project to date, leaving another $4.9 million to raise over the next three years.

Dr. Cassie Harnarine, chair of the board of directors for the foundation, told a gathering at the hospital the replacement of the aging equipment is crucial for the hospital.

“It is vital for the function of any hospital. Clinicians need results of X-Rays and ultrasounds to make a diagnosis,” he said, adding ultrasounds and CT scans help doctors “follow the progress of disease and help follow the progress of treatment.”

Harnarine said there are more than 101,000 radiological tests done at the CKHA each year. The equipment gets a workout.

But the doctors present Oct. 15 said newer equipment would allow them to do even more, as technology has advanced a great deal over the years.

The newest pieces of equipment the alliance is looking to replace are a decade old. The oldest predate amalgamation, purchased in 1997.

The latter includes a bone densitometer and now-broken fluoroscope. The former, the CT scanner, and various ultrasound units.

Dr. Victor Varma said a big reason he chose to come here as a radiologist was the CT scanner in Chatham, which was state of the art a decade ago. But technology has come a long way since then.

“The 16-slice scanner was installed 10 years ago. A new scanner can go 320 slices,” he said, referring to the imaging speed of the CT unit. “Before, we couldn’t scan a heart, as it’s always moving. Now, the newer units can scan in between heartbeats.”

Dr. Pat Tomney said the main fluoroscope at the Chatham hospital is essentially a huge paperweight.

“The 17-year-old units suffered a critical system failure. There are no parts available to service it,” she said.

Michelle Grzebien-Huckson, executive director of the foundation, was quite blunt.
“It’s toast.”

The bone densitometer, while still functional, is also 17 years old. If it were a child, it would be graduating high school.

As for the seven ultrasound units the alliance seeks to replace, all are a decade old, and heavily used.

Dr. Main Yee, head of radiology, said wait times for ultrasounds in Chatham-Kent are six weeks or more, as technicians perform 19,000 ultrasounds a year.

Newer equipment is far more efficient, he said, and wait times could be much more manageable with upgrades.

Colin Patey, CEO of the alliance, said unfortunately, government funding doesn’t cover the cost of everything at our hospitals.

“In our society, which we believe is the best in the world in terms of health care, the government does not pay for everything,” he said. “We have to be part of that team to make it happen.”

Grzebien-Huckson described much of the aging diagnostic equipment as “workhorses, but at the end of life. They’re still getting the job done, but it just takes a little bit longer. All residents of Chatham-Kent deserve the same type of equipment they have at bigger hospitals.”

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