Starting next month Kahnawa’kehró:non will finally be able to access X-rays that have long been unavailable at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC). Jennifer Julien, the hospital’s new medical imaging technologist, excitedly shared the news at the hospital on Wednesday.
“With medical imaging right here, we no longer have to send our elders out in the cold or alone for plain x-rays. We can communicate with them in their own mother tongue Kanien’kéha,” she said. “We now can image them in the comfort of our own community hospital. To me, that makes all the difference.”
Ordinarily community members have had to travel to Anna Laberge Hospital in Chateauguay to get x-rays. A major discomfort for inpatients at the hospital who might just need a simple chest scan to diagnose illnesses like pneumonia.
The department will open at reduced hours starting Thursday, August 31, operating every Tuesday and Thursday on an appointment and emergency need basis. This phase will last up to six weeks until the service expands to five days a week. This “soft launch” will allow the team to tailor to the needs of the community ahead of the full opening this fall, Julien said.
She’s been hard at work for the last six months developing all of the department’s policies and procedures. She was enthusiastic as she gave The Eastern Door a tour of the new department on Wednesday.
“This is the working area where I’ll be processing all the images,” Julien said as she showed off her new workstation. “We’re connected here to Anna Laberge Hospital,” she added, explaining the two hospitals will be collaborating together at the beginning to make sure everything runs smoothly.
She was also happy to provide a demonstration of how she’ll be using the new machine. The table bucky, found in the centre of the room, is what they’ll use for any scan that doesn’t require the patient to stand up. The same sort of table can also be found attached to the wall for taking vertical scans.
“We usually use the wall bucky for chest x-rays,” she said, positioning herself against the surface of the bucky.
The cost for the new equipment and the renovations needed to open the new department added up to around $200,000, Julien said.
Planning for the department dates back to 2013 during the tenure of the late Dr. Suzanne Jones. Extensive consultations to ensure the machine would operate safely, on top of pandemic related delays, contributed to the lengthy process, Dr. Rachael Eniojukan told The Eastern Door in May.
The biggest challenge however was finding the right personnel, said Valerie Diabo, the KMHC’s executive director, also there at the department inauguration. The province has been experiencing a shortage of qualified radiology technologists, she said.
“I know it’s been a really long time coming,” said Bronson Cross, a member of the hospital’s board of directors. “It took a lot of collaboration. It’s all part of our strategic priorities to see new services offered at the hospital, so I’m very excited on behalf of the board.”
A new ultrasound machine will also be installed within the next year, KMHC announced Wednesday, made possible through a donation of $139,000 from the Kateri Memorial Foundation.