An already two-year wait to replace imaging equipment at two hospitals in a rural part of western Quebec is being extended, putting patients with stroke at greater risk, says a family doctor in Shawville, Que.
In a speech to Radio-Canada, Dr. Pascal Croteau that he has become more and more concerned about patients with stroke after the CT scanner at Pontiac Hospital in Shawville was off-line for repairs for a week in December 2021.
This shutdown meant that patients in need of an acute CT scan were sent an hour away to Hull Hospital in Gatineau, Que., At a critical time when a brain scan is desperately needed within three hours of a stroke. said Croteau.
“We have a short window to react after a stroke,” Croteau said in French. “Without a CT scan to know if there is bleeding, we cannot determine if we should administer medication to destroy a blood clot.”
Croteau adds that patients sent to Hull are transported there in an ambulance, meaning an ambulance is less accessible in an already poorly serviced community.
Equipment failures happen too often, radiologists say
The shutdown of Shawville’s CT scanner in December 2021 was not the only occasion in which patients in rural Outaouais were diverted to Gatineau for imaging, according to the region’s health agency. Outaouais Integrated Health and Social Services Center (CISSS).
Since January 2021, Pontiac Hospital’s CT scanner has been down for repair three times, while the CT scanner at Maniwaki Hospital in Maniwaki, Que., Was repaired six times, the agency said, with the average shutdown lasting 24 hours.
“If it happens once or twice a year, it’s not that alarming,” said Dr. Magalie Dubé, President of the Association of Radiologists of Quebec. “But six times is too often.”
Three years delay
CT scanners at both Pontiac and Maniwaki hospitals were purchased in 2010 and had to be replaced after 10 years of service, as is common practice.
But several circumstances have thrown a wrench into the replacement process, said Zied Ouchteti, deputy director of diagnostic services at CISSS.
In 2021, a strategic decision was made to prioritize replacing the scanners at Hull Hospital, which houses a trauma center, and efforts were made to limit the number of scanners in the region that would be offline at the same time, Ouchteti said.
He added that the COVID-19 pandemic caused logistical delays and the provincial government only approved new scanners for Pontiac and Maniwaki in 2021.
“We can extend the life of the scanner a bit, based on how much they are used,” he said in French.
The Ouchteti said the results of a tender request for new scanners should be known by October 2022, with the installation to follow three to six months later.
But that news only reinforces Croteau’s feelings about how Western Quebec residents outside Gatineau are being treated.
“For us rural people … we are often the poor cousins and the forgotten in the health care system,” he said in French.
“We deserve services, not a reduction in services.”