Facing a backlog of patients requiring surgery, tests and a range of typical hospital services pushed back due to the pandemic, St. Mary’s General Hospital also sees delays for a more established reason: a lack of new diagnostic equipment.
With that in mind, the hospital is hoping the season’s spirit of giving might help its fundraising campaign.
Susan Dusick, president of St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation, has seen plenty of equipment in need of replacement not only to keep up with the growing population but to give faster results.
More than a million diagnostic tests are done at the hospital each year. Currently, most of their equipment is between 10 to 18 years old, causing patients to experience longer wait times for a particular diagnosis as staff at the hospital use the best of what equipment they do have.
“We are constantly upgrading and replacing equipment across St. Mary’s, everywhere from our labs to ultrasound to fluoroscopy units, nuclear cameras, you name it. We’re always replacing those sorts of things in order to provide the community with state-of-the-art technologies, which often it’s about image clarity. So just try to imagine what your camera that you used 18 years ago, and the camera you use now – think of the phone. So, some of this equipment we’re replacing is anywhere from 12 to 15 to 18 years old,” she said, noting the goal is to improve and expand the equipment available for use.
“It’s about providing our clinicians with the tools that they need to produce the most accurate diagnosis for patients. We’re thoughtful about how we do it. We’re constantly reprioritizing and running all of our equipment through risk reviews and so on. And the community can be assured that the equipment we’re using is safe, and that they are being well cared for with it, but it’s high time a lot of it gets replaced.”
The main benefits of replacing or upgrading diagnostic equipment would be clearer, more highly defined imagery, alongside enhanced ergonomics for staff and enhanced safety. A purchase last year, with funds raised by the community, helped to buy equipment that enhanced full open-heart surgery, for instance.
“We also purchase equipment that allows us to enhance care. St. Mary’s is going to be getting an MRI it’s the first MRI machine that will ever be coming to the hospital. We don’t have MRI capability at St. Mary’s right now – patients unfortunately have to get transferred to Grand River or Cambridge or Guelph if they need MRI. And you can imagine transporting an ill patient for an MRI. So that’s very exciting for us,” said Dusick, noting the goal is to have the unit in operation within 12 to 16 months, a task that involves renovating space inside the hospital.
“The fundraising for that is $7.2 million because we’re renovating the space, and in this instance, the ministry is only providing operational cost. The way the ministry’s funding model works is that they always fund 100 per cent of the operational cost. So they’re funding the salaries. What they don’t fund is the equipment and they only in normal circumstances fund 90 per cent of any construction. There are exceptions. And this MRI project for St. Mary’s is one of those exceptions where they’re funding zero of the capital costs. So, all the operational cost, which is a very significant bit, that’s about $880,000 a year to run an MRI, and that’s the staffing costs. The community is being asked to fund the renovation as well as the technology,” said Dusick.
The foundation has thus far raised some $2.5 million for the project via community donations.
“Surprisingly enough most what we call major gifts or significant investments into healthcare infrastructure are typically made by individuals. We have some very generous people in this community who have made a good life from this community and they want to give back; we’re very fortunate to have them.”
Dusick estimates the hospital will need to replaced $20 million worth of diagnostic equipment over the next three to five years alone.
Currently the hospitals in the region are experiencing a backlog of patients needing services or a diagnosis. Dusick said she hopes faster, more efficient technology could help alleviate the problem.
“It does help with the backlog in that oftentimes this new technology is faster. For example, with the fluoroscopy machine we used to have, it literally had a floppy disk – we had to take it out of the machine and we had to upload the imagery in order to finish the exam because it couldn’t hold all the information that was required. Now these exams can be done in a shorter period of time. So, it stands to reason that it will help us to clear the backlog. It’ll also help us service of a very fast-growing community.”
Anyone looking to donate can visit the St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation website.