Ultrasound services at new hospital won’t be reduced: Sullivan

Diane Crocker
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Health Minister Susan Sullivan is seen in this file photo next to an artist's concept of a preliminary site design for the new hospital in Corner Brook.

CORNER BROOK  Health Minister Susan Sullivan said Tuesday that there will be no reduction in ultrasound services at the new Western Memorial Regional Hospital and that changes to the way the service is offered will be good for the facility and the people it serves.

Sullivan made the comments in response to questions about the province’s plans for the new hospital that were raised in the House of Assembly and a later press release by Opposition Leader Dwight Ball on Monday.

In the press release, Ball said the province is considering putting three ultrasound units in the new facility instead of the current complement of six.

Sullivan said that is not accurate.  

She said based on evidence presented by Stantec around functional planning for the hospital, the province is anticipating a 34 per cent increase in the number of ultrasounds that will be needed for the people of the western region. The minister said projections show that by 2027 the number of ultrasounds will increase from 11,061 to about 13,750 annually.

“So based on that, it absolutely wouldn’t make any sense to reduce our ultrasound services in that hospital.”

Instead, Sullivan said the province is looking at lean principles, best practices and new ways of doing things.

“This hospital is going to be a flagship hospital for the people of western Newfoundland and Labrador. So we’re not going with status quo. We’re not doing the same old, same old.”

She added the facility is going to meet the needs of western Newfoundland now and well into the future.

“So what we anticipate is there may be fewer rooms with fixed ultrasound equipment machines in those rooms, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to have fewer machines or a reduction in our services around ultrasound.

“We’re going to have mobile ultrasound machines and they’ll actually go to where the patient is,” said Sullivan. “It’s much more patient focused delivery and it’s going to help us meet that increase in the volume of ultrasounds that we anticipate that we’re going to have.”

No PET scanner

Sullivan also responded to comments about the lack of plans to install a PET (positron emission tomography) scanner in the new hospital.

Eddie Joyce, Liberal MHA for the Bay of Islands, said Monday that instead of the minister making excuses for why a PET scanner is not feasible, she should be taking extra steps to ensure it is made available.

However, Sullivan maintains the PET scanner has not been a part of the plan for some very good reasons. She said best practice says radiation should be co-located with a cancer centre and the same applies to PET scanners.

While PET scanners have a variety of uses, Sullivan said in this province 95 per cent of the use will have to do with cancer care.

She said the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research both say a PET scanner ought to be where the majority of the population is — on the east coast — and should be co-located with radiation in a tertiary care centre.

In Western Health last year only 172 patients needed radiation, whereas the number for Eastern Health was 714.

WHO also says one PET Scanner is needed for every two million people and Sullivan said Newfoundland will have one for a half million people.

“We’re making available what needs to be available,” she said. “And the PET scanner is going to be located where all of the evidence tells us it needs to be.”

In terms of the functional plan for the new hospital, Sullivan said that piece is just about completed and she expects to see it early in the new year.

Organizations: Western Memorial Regional Hospital, World Health Organization (WHO), Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Bay of Islands

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Recent comments

  • West Coast Cancer Victum
    December 11, 2013 - 10:04

    Ms. Sullivan, in regard to the 172 patients from Western Health who needed radiation treatment last year, does this tally take in the number of people from Labrador, Northern Penn, some central NL locations and include patients under Western Health's jurisdiction who required radiation and had to travel to St. John's for it last year. Eastern Health's 714 cases probably does take in a large number of these patients. Don't you see, if this new hospital is supposed to service all of Western NL, then you have to take in consideration, the people from those areas. These people presently have to travel to St. John's for their treatment, so why with our proposed new state-of-the-art hospital, can't a radiation unit be included. It would then allow those people to received their treatment in Corner Brook. There would certainly be a higher tally for Western's usage then, than what is indicated in this article. When I received my radiation treatment last year, a large percentage of the other radiation patients I met were also from outside St. John's. My stay was only 6 weeks, so over a year, I can only guess how many people from 'outside' would have had to use one of the rad units. In the article, it was also quoted about the projected increase for ultrasounds, well wouldn't this projection also hold true for the future needs of radiation? I believe that it's time government make a change to the proposed state-of-the-art hospital and allow for a radiation unit. Hopefully then, this hospital could not only service the western region but also accommodate surrounding areas.

    • Blunt
      December 11, 2013 - 13:59

      This government can pull numbers out of their ar$e$ anytime they think it is convenient for them, and they think we do not know any better. I was recently out in St. John's with my 84 year old father who was out there for 3 weeks of radiation. The majority of people I spoke with who were also doing radiation were from outside the Avalon, way outside. I do not believe the stats thrown about by this Minister. It's all so convenient to make it seem like we are only a tiny minority in the number of treatments. This is and always will be about MONEY !!!!!! And just how they can keep as much of it as they can in St. John's. if WE didn't have to go out there for treatment, imagine how much money the Avalon would lose in accommodations, fuel, and so on and so on. So they throw out every excuse they can!!!! The numbers are too low, we can't find staff!!!!!!!!!! how can you get staff if you don't have the facilities. LIES !!!!!!!! Ms. Sullivan should be ashamed to even speak in public with her lack of empathy for anyone living outside the overpass !!!!!!!

  • Consistancy Please
    December 11, 2013 - 08:30

    So Western patients will have Ultrasound delivered to them , using cheaper portable ultrasound equipment,yet cancer patient in Western NL will still have to travel to St. John's. So far your LEAN Priniple seems to always lean to the East cost. Well done minister well done!

  • Peter
    December 11, 2013 - 07:43

    Na na na na, hey hey hey , GOOD-BY.

  • peter barry
    December 11, 2013 - 06:46

    so the rest of the population again are being treated like second class citizens just because we dont live on the avalon.shame on you ms sullivan.where are our city council.time for you to speak up.

    • Mr Corner Brook
      December 11, 2013 - 08:18

      You won't hear from any of those clowns anytime soon. Maybe just before the next election......As for Pender himself, he wouldn't care anyways, because by the time next election rolls around he'll realize he has no chance of re-election anyways. Screwed again, but Corner Brook has no one to blame but itself. The people of Corner Brook elected this joke of a council. Guess it doesnt matter, because when the mill inevitably goes flat, this community will be done!!! Do you really think the powers that be would allow a PET scanner to be built at this joke of a health care facility, in this washed out town???