Ultrasound services are returning to St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan.
The services that were pulled from the local hospital over four years ago, will soon be restored by the Sun Country Health Region (SCHR) according to information released last Friday.
Normand Poirier, executive director of the Estevan hospital, said "it's a giant step forward in providing care to the residents of our community."
Poirier said the credit for restoring this imaging and diagnostic service to St. Joe's had to go to Sun Country and the local community health services committee that was formed between the City of Estevan and the RM of Estevan to use a small portion of local property tax dollars to fund such things as additional services, physician recruitment and a new nursing home.
"This puts patients first when we can provide more services close to home. It respects the spirit of the Patient First Review," said Poirier.
Estevan Mayor Gary St. Onge said, "we've been on this case for a while now. Sun Country was telling us that Radiology Associates of Regina wouldn't put people in Estevan, but when we contacted them directly, they said they were quite willing to supply that service. So we had received two different messages. Then we requested a meeting with Sun Country that would include the Radiology Associates business manager, but when the meeting was called, we learned that the manager hadn't been invited, then a short while later we receive information that the service would be returning to Estevan."
When the services were provided before, the ultrasound equipment was supplied by the servicing company. This time, the equipment will be purchased through the community fund.
St. Onge said he believed the capital cost to purchase the ultrasound equipment was around $175,000.
Once the equipment is purchased and installed, Radiology Associates of Regina will be providing an imaging specialist two days a week.
St. Onge said his discussions with a local physician indicated that they could use the service daily if an imaging specialist were available so, "we told them we'll watch how this goes and maybe if we need more, we'll press the issue to get a full-time technician here. But right now Sun Country will be providing the operating funds for twice a week."
He said he expected the person assigned to St. Joe's will receive a travel allowance, but he wasn't sure about that part of the arrangement.
"Then we say they'd better not leave here again," he said, noting that local clients have had to make their way as far as Moose Jaw and Regina and occasionally to Weyburn to have simple ultrasound imaging tests done.
Ultrasound is a diagnostic tool used to track such things as kidney stones, gall bladder problems, liver abnormalities, renal function, aortic aneurysms or uterine and ovarian abnormalities. It is also a key element for obstetrical assessment of fetal viability and routine screening. Since St. Joseph's has approximately 300 births recorded each year, the local committee members said they felt it was a vital service for that reason alone.
St. Onge said the local property tax assessments from the City and RM left the committee with about $270,000 in the coffers in the first year and another $270,000 is being realized again this year, so they will be able to make the purchase immediately.
Although there is no date set yet for the resumption of this service, Poirier said once he receives the particulars regarding the type of equipment that will be required by Radiology Associates, the purchase can be made. "I'm just waiting for the specifications, but I would guess that by suggesting we could be offering the service within four to six weeks, would not be out of line."