Digital x-ray equipment boosts Rosthern Hospital’s capacity

Rosthern Hospital Foundation Board Chair Ramona Kerber and past chair Betty Giesbrecht speak at the unveiling of the new equipment November 30

Patient care at the Rosthern Hospital took a giant leap forward this month with the implementation of digital x-ray imaging equipment.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Rosthern Hospital Foundation (RHF) Board Chair Ramona Kerber at the official unveiling of the equipment at the hospital on Friday, November 30. “But it will make a huge difference.

“The new equipment will mean better patient care because it will support physicians in their diagnosis and treatment through better images and the ability to consult with specialists more immediately,”

An investment of $200,000 for the digital imaging equipment was shared equally by the community and the provincial government through the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health.

“We’ve been working on this for about three years,” said) Manager of Medical Imaging Richard Dagenais in an interview November 30. “Five different hospitals in what used to be the Saskatoon Health Region were approved for this type of equipment, and the Ministry of Health agreed to put in matching funds raised by the communities, to a maximum of $100,000.

“The Rosthern Hospital Foundation raised $100,000, and the government matched that contribution.”

About half the funds went directly to pay for the equipment, while the remainder covered hospital renovations to accommodate the changeover from film x-rays to digital x-rays, as well as computers and networking connections to link the digital x-rays to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) central system.

Rosthern Hospital Staff, board members and volunteers, SHA officials and Biggar-Sask Valley MLA Randy Weekes cut the ribbon for the Rosthern Hospital’s new digital x-ray imaging equipment

Digital x-ray images taken at Rosthern Hospital can now be shared in real time via computer with physician specialists and radiologists in Saskatoon and other centres.

The ability to consult with other physicians on diagnosis and treatment options is a huge step up for patient care, according to Betty Giesbrecht, past chair of the RHF.

“Now, if there is an x-ray called for, physicians can take a closer look at the image, just like you can on your computer,” said Giesbrecht. “They also have the ability to talk to specialists and decide if the patient needs to be transported to a facility in a larger centre with more advanced equipment. It’s a great achievement to have this kind of digital x-ray equipment available to the staff here. It can only mean better patient outcomes in the end.”

The actual camera equipment in the x-ray lab is the same, but the images are now transmitted to a computer, rather than onto film.

Rosthern Hospital lab and x-ray department supervisor Stacey Hobbs said the new equipment is a “game-changer” because it has boosted the efficiency, quality and speed of x-rays as a diagnostic tool.

“The images are now available to specialists in Saskatoon in a matter of seconds, rather than  having to wait 24 hours or longer,” said Hobbs. “Now doctors here in Rosthern can consult with specialists in a bigger centre in real time.”

Dagenais noted that until  about six months ago, Rosthern Hospital was still using film x-rays, which were developed in a darkroom using chemicals and a processing machine. Over the past several months, the film equipment has gradually been replaced with computerized equipment, including a specialized scanner able to convert existing film-image x-rays to digital images.

The former darkroom at the Rosthern Hospital has been converted into a computer workstation and storage area for film x-rays.

“Digital x-rays were first introduced in Saskatoon hospital facilities about ten years ago,” said Dagenais. “Since then, it’s been a gradual process of converting smaller health centre facilities to the new format.

Manger of Medical Imaging Richard Dagenais

“There are still quite a number of communities that still use film, so Rosthern is not entirely at the back of the train, but it takes time and money to make it happen. The people of this community dug deep and came up with the necessary funds.”

Kerber credited Rosthern Ambulance owner Walter Dutchak for helping raise a sizable chunk of funds through an annual golf tournament.

Dagenais noted that Highway 11 is busy, and Rosthern Hospital handles many motor vehicle collision victims every year. The digital x-ray equipment will speed up diagnosis and treatment for those patients, he said.

“Doctors do often have to consult with specialists if there are broken bones,” he said. “If physicians here are trying to decide whether a patient has to be moved, this is another tool they can use to support their decision.”

Biggar-Sask Valley MLA Randy Weekes said the provincial government is committed to improving helath services for rural residents.

“This is another example of communities, health care providers and government pulling together to benefit rural Sasktahcewan,” said Weekes.