Call it the ripple effect.
Groves Hospital received permission for a CT scanner from the provincial government last Friday morning – and the effects of that will eventually be felt in Guelph, across Wellington County, and even beyond.
Groves Chief Executive Officer Jerome Quenneville called the announcement by Minister of Research and Innovation John Wilkinson “a positive next step for the area.”
The machine will do 5,685 exam scans per year.
Wilkinson, the MPP for Perth-Wellington, told a large gathering at Groves on Jan. 18, “You’ve been working on this for a long time.”
He noted that his riding, too, will be positively affected because residents from there will also be using the CT scanner.
“That long drive to Guelph is no longer going to be required,” he said.
Wilkinson said both he and Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott represent Wellington County, and even though they disagree on partisan issues, “When it comes to issues for Wellington, we do agree.”
Guelph MPP Liz Sandals noted that the application for the CT scanner began when she represented part of Wellington County, and she said the new equipment in Fergus will take pressure off Guelph General Hospital, which has been providing the service.
It will also help lower some operating costs for Groves, which has to send a nurse with in-patients to Guelph when the service is needed.
Sandals said when hospital officials and the province began considering the CT scanner, patients in Waterloo Region and Wellington County faced some of the longest waiting times in the province for that service.
But that has been changing over the past few years.
Sandals said the new machinery will make it more accessible to everyone in Wellington, and a radiologist at Guelph Hospital can interpret the information from the machine through a computer hook-up with Groves.
Cathy Durst, chairman of Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network board, said her group is working to get services to the rural community in a timely matter, and the board “very quickly understood the passion of the rural area” for its hospitals.
She noted Palmerston now has received a dialysis unit, and that brings those services closer to Centre Wellington patients.
Arnott said he was born in Groves Hospital on April 8, 1963 and when the doctor told him Liberal Lester Pearson had been elected that day, he “cried all night.”
His three sons were also born at Groves, and Arnott thanked the staff, which he said is determined “to ensure we have the very best health care.”
He said in an interview that it was exactly three months since the last provincial election, and the first thing he did the day after he was re-elected was to write to Smitherman to demand quick approval of the CT scanner. While three months is not what he considered quick, he said he is pleased the government has “finally” given its approval for the machine.
“It’s been a long wait, but I’m pleased the Minister of Health has finally seen fit to grant his approval,” said Arnott. He is also hopeful waiting lists for CT scans will be shortened. Groves Memorial patients have been waiting about two months – and much longer in many cases – for access to CT scanners in Guelph for non-urgent cases.
Chief of Staff Dr. Rick Gergovich and his wife Heather, the head of diagnostic imaging at Groves, made the first donation to the now-launched $3-million campaign to purchase the CT scanner.
“Let there be no mistake. This is huge,” said Gergovich, who was beaming at the News the equipment is finally on the way. “This is going to serve our community like you wouldn’t believe.
“CT has become the standard of care for investigation and diagnosis of so many medical and surgical conditions,” he said. “Front line health care workers have long advocated for a CT scanner for our region.”
Dr. Gergovich had the hospital echoing in laughter when he added that Wilkinson should take a message to Health Minister George Smitherman. “Thank him for the CT Scanner – but remind him we need a building to put around it.”
He was referring to the new hospital, which is now underway with the site selection nearly completed.
Gergovich said a CT scanner is to the modern hospital what a chest X-ray machine was to hospitals in the 1940s and 1950s. He explained later that it is much more sophisticated than the old CAT scanners that it replaced, and it “synthesizes x-rays and gives a very accurate image of things inside your body that you normally would not see.”
He said that could include anything from brain tumors to kidney stones, and that the CT scanner can do many things that “X-rays and ultra-sound can’t do.”
Gergovich thanked Arnott for all his hard work on the project, and said of Sandals “I was begging in your office.” He thanked Wilkinson and asked him to pass along that gratitude to Smitherman.
Gergovich said that many times Groves has had to send patients not only to Guelph General for the scans, but also Orangeville and Walkerton. He note that he has from time to time been forced to send patients all the way to owen Sound in order to have a scan done in a timely way.
* * *
Ted Ecclestone, chairman of the Groves Foundation, said that now that the approval for the machine has arrived, the community has to raise about $3-million to pay for it.
Sandals explained that the community pays for the machine, and the province pays the higher cost, to operate it. She said that is “the way it normally works.”
Ecclestone said the Foundation will be approaching people and service clubs for donation help. He said many of the service clubs are nearing the completion of their pledges for the renovation of Groves, which has now been changed to becoming a new hospital, and he said those clubs will be approached again for help, but likely not for as much as in the past.
Dr. Gergovich said the scanner itself could cost about $1.6-million, but housing it could boost the price to $3-million. The unit will be placed in temporary housing at Groves, and later moved to the new hospital.
Heather Gergovich said the machine will be placed in a unit in the courtyard, and all the hospital will have to do is build a hallway. The building housing the unit will be located directly across from the current area designated for diagnostic imaging.”
While the unit will be housed in a portable, it will have to be lead-lined and also air conditioned.
Heather Gergovich said that there are several suppliers for such machines, and they are used to providing special housing units for them, as hospitals struggle to accommodate them.
The machine will have its own room at the new hospital, which is currently several years away from being built.
She said that in some places, the units are located, “even on trucks.”