Premier Tom Marshall is confident radiation service can be provided at the new hospital in Corner Brook, as long as it can be done safely.
Marshall said Friday that he’s been gathering information himself, has heard from experts at Eastern Health and from the Western Region Hospital Action Committee and now he wants to hear from other experts in the field. To do that, $500,000 has been allocated in this year’s provincial budget for a study of safe radiation services delivery in western Newfoundland.
“The plan is for me to get some ... impartial and independent experts to look at our data and our numbers and to tell me what type of model that we can offer at the new hospital in Corner Brook that will provide safe radiation therapy services to the people of the province,” he said.
He wants to find out if the service could be provided with one linear accelerator and one bunker or whether two would be needed. And if the province were to go with one, how would it handle breakdowns?
But that’s not all he wants to know. The more important question, he said, is if Western Health can we get the specialized professionals needed to operate it. He said without medical physicists a radiation program can’t be accredited and it is these specialists that are responsible for the safe delivery of treatment through the prevention of radiation errors and providing quality assurance.
The plans for the new hospital have been under fire in the public domain for much of the last two years. Critics have charged government has scaled down the project, that it's tardy in being constructed and that it should have new medical services such as radiation therapy and a PET scanner.
Marshall said the design for the new hospital will be such that a radiation unit can be included at any time. He said an exterior wall in the medical imaging department will include a door that could provide access to radiation bunkers and that mechanical and electrical systems will be brought to the wall in sufficient quantities to be available should radiation bunkers be added.
“As soon as we get the word, if the word is ‘yes you can do it and yes you can attract the people,’ then we’ll tell them to start building it.”
As for the addition of a PET (positron emission tomography) scanner, Marshall said he read the comments made by Dr. Bob Cook that a PET scanner may not be needed now, but could be part of the standard of care in eight years.
He said he has talked with people who disagree with Cook, but he is going to accept the Western Memorial Regional Hospital radiologist’s opinion.
“And therefore I have already instructed the Department of Health to build a room for a PET scanner.”
If Cook’s prediction is right, Marshall said a PET scanner will go in that room, but if he’s wrong the space can be used for another piece of diagnostic equipment.
“We’re going to make the room. We’ll see if it becomes part of everyday practice.”
More from Marshall
— There is still $588 million to be spent on the hospital.
— Work on the site this summer will include the installation of water and sewer services, grading and a concrete water tank may be installed.
— The request for proposals process on the design build of the new hospital has resulted in five groups of companies being pre-qualified to move on to the second phase that will see one group selected in May to complete the design-development package for the long-term care and logistics buildings.
— The design-development document will represent 30 to 40 per cent of the total design effort and will outline the requirements of the buildings including detailed descriptions of major building systems, energy modelling, floor plans and site planning.
— The project will go up for bids in time for construction to begin in 2015.
— The budget allotted $1.4 million to open an 18-bed alternate level of care unit at Western Memorial. Marshall said a floor currently used for offices will be converted back to patient rooms to help reduce the number of acute care beds that are being occupied by patients requiring an alternate level of care, including long-term care.
— Once said once the design-development package for the long-term care is completed the process will be repeated for the hospital, administration building and hostel. Marshall said the contract for the hospital build should be awarded in time for construction to start in the 2016 construction season.