Dr. Sandra Vestvik said it feels incredible to be able to tell patients they can now get CT scans without having to drive multiple hours. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

CT scanner officially open in Smithers

As of noon on July 12 the machine had scanned 45 patients, five of which were emergency CT scans.

It’s official, Smithers’ CT scanner is open for business.

At a July 12 event a number of officials from Northern Health, the Bulkley Valley District Hospital (BVDH) and various departments of the Town got together in the courtyard to officially open the CT room which will serve patients from Burns Lake to Hazelton.

Health Service Administrator Cormac Hikisch told The Interior News despite the official opening ceremony taking place on July 12, the scanner saw its first patient on July 9.

As of noon on July 12 the machine had scanned 45 patients, five of which were emergency CT scans.

“Thank you for coming to this historic occasion where we officially open the BVDH CT scanner and recognize … the many people that have helped make this day possible,” said Hikisch to a crowd of about 50 in the small hospital courtyard.

“Many of us at the hospital still can’t believe we’re here today, it’s been many years and many steps and many conversations and plans and dreams and hopes and [I’m] really excited that we’re going to reflect on that journey and celebrate that we are open for business, [we are] providing CT services as we speak.”

Mayor Taylor Bachrach was in attendance and said the occasion was a huge day for the community, referencing the donation of Telkwa local Fritz Pfeiffer, who gave $1.6 million to the Bulkley Valley Health Care & Hospital Foundation in 2016 to help fund the machine.

“I think that it’s one of the largest single philanthropic donations in our communities history certainly in recent memory and it really speaks to his commitment to this place and his love for community,” he said, adding access to such a machine in a timely manner is critical, especially in emergency situations.

Bachrach also took the opportunity to thank Bulkley Valley residents as a whole for their commitment to the project.

“One of our greatest assets [are] the residents of this place who come together and stand up and fight for the services that we need … [and] that allow us to maintain a high quality of life here in the Bulkley Valley.”

Speaking to the crowd BVDH chief of staff Dr. Sandra Vestvik read a letter she sent back to the VP of Northern Health some years back, detailing a need for a CT scanner in Smithers.

“Currently we must transfer emergency patients by ambulance to Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace. Realistically, we cannot transfer a patient and obtain a CT scan in under three-and-a-half hours, not accounting for road conditions,” the letter read.

But now that the scanner is here, Vestvik said she was elated to be able to tell patients the news: they would no longer have to travel hours at a time to receive further CT scans.

“On Tuesday morning … knowing that the CT scanner was here now I got to tell three patients that their CTs could be done here.

“[They] were extremely happy and told me how important that was that they no longer had to travel.”

Doug Donaldson was also in attendance and remarked the machine would be a great asset for the area as it would serve people from the Burns Lake to Hazelton region.

After the presentations, Hikisch led a number of tours to show off the new room to people who attended the ceremony.

He said the hospital is projecting the machine will carry out between 3,500 and 4,000 scans a year.

Prior to Smithers getting a CT scanner, those needing the procedure, often times in emergency situations, had to travel to scanners in Prince George or Terrace.

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Minister Doug Donaldson was at the event and praised the CT scanner as a great asset to the area. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

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