Construction will begin this week at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital to accommodate a new digital mammography machine.
In a press release from Northern Health, it stated that this investment aligns with recently concluded efforts of the Smithers Breast Health Advisory Group, who made substantive recommendations to improve screening rates, patient journey, and patient outcomes around breast health pathways for the Bulkley Valley.
Earlier this year, there were fears that mammography services in Smithers would disappear soon when new regulations would make the current screening machine obsolete. If Smithers didn’t get a digital mammography unit, diagnostic screening would be moved to Mills Memorial in Terrace with a mobile screening truck visiting Smithers a couple times per year.
Residents in the Bulkley Valley were concerned about wait times and travel if this would be the case so there was a push and an outcry to retain services in Smithers. A committee was formed to fight for a digital unit and more than 1,200 people signed a petition to keep mammography services local. Smithers Town council also got behind the movement.
It was announced in late June that Northern Health was going to proceed with procuring the new mammography unit. Capital funding for the unit was provided through the Provincial Health Services Authority.
Renovations to the existing mammography space at the hospital will start on Thursday with an expected downtime of seven weeks to allow for infection control preparation, decommission, current equipment disposal, renovation, new equipment install, and required safety and quality testing. In the meantime, patients requiring an urgent test will have to go to either Terrace or Prince George for a mammography.
Northern Health is hoping to open the new mammography services mid-December with a grand opening ceremony.