Northern Health is examining the possibility of ultrasound services at the Lakes District Hospital in Burns Lake. However, a computerized tomography (CT) scanner unit is not likely to come, and patients requiring CT scans must go to the hospital in Smithers. (Lakes District News file photo)

Ultrasound for Burns Lake hospital possible, Northern Health says

Northern Health is considering the possibility of bringing ultrasound services to the Lakes District Hospital in Burns Lake.

“The potential for regularly scheduled visiting ultrasound services in Burns Lake is being explored,” as Eryn Collins, spokesperson for Northern Health told Lakes District News.

However, bringing ultrasound technology to the hospital depends on several factors that don’t necessarily favour Burns Lake, including costs, demand and recruiting ultrasound technologists (sonographers).

“Current demand for ultrasound in the Burns Lake area (including Granisle, South Bank and Francois Lake) is not enough to support a full-time technologist,” Collins said, adding that hiring sonographers is difficult and competitive across the country and province.

An ultrasound machine costs about $250,000, Collins said.

“Northern Health is looking forward to an increase in sonography graduates in British Columbia from the new program at College of New Caledonia, and expansion of the existing program at BCIT, to help alleviate recruitment challenges.”

The confirmation of ultrasound considerations follows a meeting that Burns Lake mayor Dolores Funk and chief administrative officer Sheryl Worthing had with representatives of Northern Health at the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) AGM in Williams Lake on May 6-10.

Several topics related to healthcare were discussed with Northern Health at the AGM, including life expectancy, diagnostics, maternity and medical internships.

READ MORE: Village council briefs

Though the possibility of ultrasound technology in Burns Lake is on the horizon, the prospects for bringing a computerized tomography (CT) scanner unit to the hospital are slim.

“CT requires a major capital expenditure, and a significant operational budget including the need for skilled staff. Where small local populations would lead to low utilization, it would be challenging to staff safe services in a sustainable manner,” explained Collins.

Northern Health’s 10-year Medical Imaging Strategy identified the most strategic spots in northern B.C. for access to imaging technology.

For Burns Lake residents, Smithers was identified as the best location in the region to access CT scanners.

“Following the completion of that CT installation (Summer 2019), residents in Burns Lake will have better access to this service (143km away instead of 227km to Prince George, or 347km to Terrace.)” said Collins.

The CT scanner at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital in Smithers arrived on June 6. The total cost of the project was $2.9 million and the unit itself came to $1.75 million.

RELATED: CT scanner arrives at hospital

Blair McBride
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