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New era coming to Smithers hospital’s radiology department

Digital scanning to improve overall patient service in Bulkley Valley.
Cormac Hikisch and Andrea Bradford go over renovation plans. (Cassidy Muir)

The usually quiet radiology department at the Bulkley Valley Distict Hospital is buzzing with activity as renovations are getting underway for some long awaited major technological upgrades.

“It’ll be a fairly similar layout, except we’re going from old approach to new approach, so that’ll be a fully digital route. It’s called DR (digital radiography), where the image will be taken and digitized. Right now the image is taken on a [plate], which is called CR (computerized radiography),” explained health services administrator Cormac Hikisch.

“We have the digitizers that digitize the plate, and then you re-use it. You re-use them over and over and over,” added chief medical imaging technologist Andrea Bradford.

Bradford said the new technology will allow staffers to see new X-ray images seconds after they’re taken.

“There’s voice recognition … They read the X-ray, it pops up and they [dictate] it right away, and within five minutes of your exam ending you can have a written report out to the doctor’s office,” she said.

“The magic of the whole thing, the fact that it’s digital, is that then it can get uploaded on a secure [internal] network. Then the doctor, whether it’s a physician or a radiologist, can view it from wherever they happen to be, and they can securely share that image,” said Hikisch.

The new radiology room will be completed in mid-September, after which the current room will be renovated to house a CT scanner. The overall cost of the equipment and renovations is around $900,000 according to Hikisch.

“We’ve been fundraising, the local foundation’s been fundraising, for years. Our Northern Health capital approval process has completed, so CT is coming after years and years of planning and preparation. It’s really exciting.”

He said residents of the Bulkley Valley and Lakes District need around 2,500-3,000 scans per year, and currently have to travel to Terrace or Prince George for CT scanning. Having a CT scanner will “improve the patient journey”.

“Most [CT scans] will happen here in Smithers. There will still be some CTs that will have to happen in Terrace and Prince George that are tied into specialist care, but that will be the minority.”

“The outlook for the patient is way better, having CT on site. There’s no time lag between them getting here, having their CT, and maybe being diagnosed. There’s something that could save their life or help them along better,” said Bradford.

“One of the really interesting things is that we’re now recruiting for a permanent radiologist to be based in Smithers, so if we’re successful with this room there will be another renovation that will allow for a radiologist to have their own space,” said Hikisch.

“Our chief tech [Andrea Bradford] will have her own space as well … so that will be a huge benefit for medical imaging in total,” Hikisch said.

The hospital is keen to share the developments with the community.

“It’s exciting,” Hikisch said.

“The journey has started.”