MELFORT — Eleven years after the province promised it to the city, Melfort now has its first computed tomography (CT) scanner operational and serving patients at the hospital.
The announcement was made at a Melfort press conference on Sept. 2, being joined by Todd Goudy, Melfort MLA; hospital staff; Rick Lang, Melfort’s former mayor ; and Everett Hindley, minister of mental health and addictions, seniors, and rural and remote health.
Until now, Melfort residents typically travelled to Prince Albert or Saskatoon for CT services.
“This is an important piece of equipment for Melfort and the entire northeast,” Hindley said.
“We managed to get it operational just in the last week or so and it’s already accepting patients. It speaks to the importance of having a piece of equipment like this, diagnostic equipment, here in a city like Melfort that serves the northeast.”
While the city began lobbying for the machine after it was promised to them in 2010, the province didn’t announce funding, which came to $2.25 million, until 2020. The funding was also allocated towards renovations at the Melfort Hospital Medical Imaging Department and operational costs.
The 2021-22 provincial budget included an additional $950,000 in operating funding, for a total of $1.2 million annually, for the Melfort CT scanner.
Hindley attributed the decade-long wait as “competing interests in health.”
“They’re trying to provide expanse, supports, services and equipment whether it’s capital projects or facilities or equipment around the province. We have a number of areas we have to get into,” he said.
“We always wish we could do things sooner and do them immediately but there is a process that has to go through and unfortunately that does take some time on occasion.”
Peggy George, North Central Health Care Foundation chair, said it had gotten to the point that Goudy, as their local MLA, “ducked his head” every time he would see her, because he knew that she was going to bring up the scanner.
“I was on the Melfort advocacy committee, and so we tried to just go through it that way and we had the promises that it was coming – we knew it was, but it just never happens fast enough,” George said. “When it comes to healthcare you’re healthy one day and sick the next and you need these services.”
She said there is a long list of things that the foundation would like to see at the hospital and they'd be talking with hospital staff as to what's needed next.
A CT scan uses computers and rotating x-ray machines to create cross-sectional images of the body from different angles, providing more detailed information than standard x-ray machines. It has a variety of uses including diagnosing muscle bone fractures, tumors, blood clots, cancer, heart diseases, liver masses and lung nodules.
CT services operating in Melfort are planned to contribute to reducing the backlog of patients resulting from the COVID-19 disruption, and meet increasing demand for CT services across the province.
Bryan Witt, Saskatchewan Health Authority’s executive director of medical imaging, said they are currently in the process of reaching out to patients who receive CT scans in Prince Albert and Saskatoon with addresses in the region.
“We’re actually proactively reaching out to the patients saying, ‘Don’t go to PA, we can take care of you back at home here,’” Witt said.
In 2020-21, 117,000 patients throughout the province received a CT scan.
Rod Gantefoer has been involved with securing the CT scanner since the beginning, back when he was a MLA for the area. He said it feels good to have it up and running.
“It's too bad it takes so long but if it hadn't taken this long, we wouldn't have that high quality digital machinery,” he said. “Every 10 years is technology kind of becomes obsolete, so we're starting with brand new stuff.”