The priority is getting a CT Scanner installed at Mission Memorial Hospital (MMH), but a delegation to council described how the community is getting left behind in terms of regional funding.
Dr. Andy Edelson, a recently retired doctor, and Judith Ray, chair of Mission All Together for Healthcare (MATH), provided history, context, and statistics on May 17 as they requested help from elected officials.
“We are the only Fraser Health Authority hospital west of Hope that does not have a CT scanner on site,” Edelson said. “It takes precious time to obtain a CT scan for patients in Mission Hospital, which is increasing the risk of adverse effects, and even death.”
A CT scanner is a standard investigative tool, and always required before emergency surgical procedures, Edelson said.
It’s used for diagnosing infections, muscle disorders, fractures, locating and evaluating cancers, blood vessels, abscesses, and for assessing extensive injuries and monitoring the effectiveness of treatments.
MATH has been able to fundraise $150,000 in total out of the $1 million typically required from the community to obtain a CT scanner. This includes $70,000 needed for a feasibility study in early 2021.
Edelson gave an example of an 18-year old brought into the emergency room at 2 a.m., suffering from a head injury after drinking heavily at a party. The young man is drowsy, and unresponsive apart from stimuli.
“Does he have a hidden significant head injury that needs urgent treatment?” Edelson asked. “This kid needs an urgent CT scan … Then come the delays.”
Currently, an emergency room physician would have to call to arrange the procedure, find a radiologist, get permission, then call the patient-transfer network to arrange an ambulance trip.
In order to be transferred, he’ll have to answer 30 questions, often from two separate people, “costing precious time,” Edelson said.
The hospital then has to assign a nurse escort for the trip; the patient waits for the ambulance’s arrival, is driven to Abbotsford Regional Hospital (ARH); then, if a significant head injury is confirmed, is transferred again to Royal Columbian Hospital for neurosurgery.
If MMH had a CT scanner, Edelson said the emergency room physician would recognize the patient’s need for a scan, arrange for the procedure on site, a diagnosis would be made and he would be transferred to Royal Columbian Hospital immediately.
“This possibly saves hours, and reduces the risk of permanent brain damage to an otherwise healthy young man with a future.”
Not getting fair share
Prior to 2002, MMH was a “community hospital with everything,” Edelson said.
That year, Fraser Health centralized services resulting in the closure of Mission’s ICU, closure of its operating room, closure of its pediatric unit, removal of support for its renowned obstetric unit, forced its skilled internal medicine doctor to relocate, removed the support for its tech review, and reduced it’s patient beds to around 25, according to Edelson.
“We had 88 beds at our height, I’m told, and we provided timely service,” he said. “Interestingly enough, Delta (Hospital) was spared due to community outrage.”
When comparing MMH’s share of regional funding, the delegation asked: Does the Fraser Valley Regional Health District board (FVRHD) appropriately recognize Mission?
Fraser Health approved almost $12 million in capital investment for Fraser East hospitals for 2021.
Mission received $180,000 to replace an existing air-cooling chiller and cooling tower from 1980, while ARH received $7.3 million to replace equipment in nine operating rooms (outdated from 2008), and replaced a CT Scanner for the second year in a row for $2.8 million.
Meanwhile, Langley Memorial Hospital (LMH), which has 44,000 visits annually, opened its new emergency room on May 4, replacing the old ER from 1986 and increasing its bed count from 31 to 49. The project cost almost $30 million, with the hospital foundation and auxiliary contributing $11 million.
LMH has also recently installed a new MRI, which is more expensive than a CT scanner, according to Edelson. Langley is also opening a new hospice in the Fall.
Mission Memorial Hospital’s ER, which outdates LMH’s old ER, only has seven beds and sees 21,000 visits annually.
The MMH Auxiliary contributed $500,000 to replace old lab equipment, something that should be Fraser Health’s responsibility, Edelson said.
Ray said she’s been in contact with Vernon Jubilee Hospital (VJH) in the Interior Health Authority to gauge how many CT scans Missionites should be receiving annually.
VJH, which serves a population of 65,000, has two CT scanners conducting 19,000 scans a year, she said.
The last record they have from Fraser Health indicates only 6,000 Mission residents received scans. By her calculations, 14,000 scans should have been be performed.
“Are we getting our fair share?” Edelson asked.
MATH needs support
In order to improve MMH, MATH needs active municipal support, attention at the FVRHD, and engagement with Mission’s MLAs and neighbouring municipalities, Ray said.
“We’re all aware of how rapidly this community is growing,” she said. “The perception we have is a lot of people … missing out on having one, and people are relying on less diligent diagnostic tools to come to a conclusion, because they just don’t have access.”
Fraser Health has approved the CT scanner project, submitted a funding proposal to the Ministry of Health and is now awaiting word.
“Everything (council) can do in terms of dialogue with the MLAs in our area, to continue to put the pressure on it being urgent is really, really important,” Ray said. “We’ve done as much as we can from this side.”