Interior Health limits local CT scans

Patients in need of CT scans are still being forced to travel out of town, as Interior Health is funding far fewer scans at Shuswap Lake General than at other hospitals in the region.

Patients in need of CT scans are still being forced to travel out of town, as Interior Health is funding far fewer scans at Shuswap Lake General than at other hospitals in the region.

And although Interior Health promises the situation will be remedied as soon as possible, local doctors are frustrated by the long waitlists resulting – three months for urgent cases – particularly in view of the fact area residents coughed up $1.5 million in one year for the equipment and the hospital foundation produced another $500,000 to help with operating costs.

“We have been very clear, we have the CT scanner but service goals have not been met,” says Dr. Scott McKee, Shuswap Lake General Hospital chief of medical staff, of past discussions with Interior Health.

“This is our community-born and fundraised scanner and they’re not getting it (the service) here,” he says, noting Salmon Arm’s doctors are frustrated with having to send patients with urgent needs elsewhere.

Local radiologist Dr. Kevin Beckner says he’s been working closely with IH to ensure Shuswap Lake General Hospital’s CT scan service gets equitable funding.

“For reasons that are not entirely clear, our site has the lowest quota in this region compared to other sites based on catchment area population,” he says. “For this reason, and because 24/7 CT is not being offered, patients are having to go elsewhere to have exams done. These include outpatient exams and, in the case of emergency and inpatient exams when our CT is not operational after hours.”

Beckner says that while the introduction of 24/7 service April 1 will address some of the issue, it does not address the inequitable quota levels.

Shuswap Lake General Hospital is only authorized to perform seven non-emergency CT scans per day between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Also equipped with one CT scanner, Vernon Jubilee Hospital performs 37 scheduled scans per day between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s important to note the CT service at Vernon Jubilee Hospital operates seven days a week and at extended hours compared to the Monday to Friday daytime service currently being offered at SLGH,” says Interior Health in an e-mail to the Observer. “The CT service at VJH has also been established for many years and draws from a larger population base, including patients from the Shuswap area that are referred by their physicians. The CT service at SLGH has been operating for a year and a half, services a smaller population and, as of April 1, will be expanded to include 24-7 life and limb service.”

Dan Fitch, new health service director for diagnostic imaging in the Thompson, Cariboo, Shuswap area says Shuswap Lake will be getting its CT scan allocation increased to 14 scheduled procedures per day beginning April 1. But he says he is working to see if he can find some funding to address the waitlist issue sooner than April 1.

Fitch says that the health region has been undergoing major administrative changes in the past year and that providing service on an equitable basis throughout is a new attitude.

But area patients should not be worried, says Beckner, noting if hospital and emergency room patients need CT scans on an urgent basis, they will get them.

“We make sure any studies needed to be done are done so in a timely manner, we do the best to provide the best service,” he says. “I’m confident it is going to happen and I’m working closely with IH so our site is treated equitably.”