It was a shock for Megan Day last Thursday when she showed up to the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) to get an X-ray, referral in hand, just to find out no one there could help her.
She didn’t know it yet, but the department had been forced to shutter that same day. It continues to be closed until further notice after its sole medical imaging technologist went on a temporary leave earlier this month.
“I was so excited to go into town to do it. I called and they told me they had no staff,” Day said, saying she had been hoping to get her knee and foot looked at. “I hope they get it up and running again.”
Dr. Rachael Eniojukan, who oversees staffing for the department, said it’s hard to say at this point when it could reopen. Right now the hope is to have it up and running again by the new year, she said. The new department has only been open since late August.
“We’re in the beginning stages, and we’re still growing the service, but we’re confident that once we have our additional technologists to support each other, we’ll be able to sustain the program,” Eniojukan said.
Kahnawa’kehró:non are being referred to clinics in surrounding areas like Chateauguay in the meantime, just as they were prior to the creation of the department. That’s where Day ended up last Thursday.
“At least the ladies in Chateauguay at Imagix were wonderful,” she said. “I walked in with no appointment, and I was out in 45 minutes.”
When the department launched, it did so on a part-time basis, only operating two days per week. Eniojukan said hospital administration decided to opt for a soft launch because they didn’t have a second imaging technologist hired yet, something she said is an urgent priority for them.
Initially the hope was to also have the department running on a full-time basis by the fall. A Quebec-wide shortage of X-ray technologists has made recruiting particularly challenging, however, she said.
“The goal is to have more than one, as a backup,” Eniojukan said. “We did not have that in place when we opened.”
Montreal-based interventional radiologist Dr. Gilles Soulez said fewer people are interested in pursuing medical technology because of low wages and high rates of burnout in the field. The shortage also makes it harder for radiologists, the doctors that provide diagnoses based on the X-ray scans, to do their job.
“There is a big gap between the salary of technologists in Quebec compared to Ontario. It’s a big problem,” said Soulez, who works at a hospital in downtown Montreal.
He also sits on the board of the Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR), which has been collaborating with associations representing medical technologists in Canada to lobby the federal government for more funding to support hiring.
“We need to recognize their contribution in the system, and also inform the community of the value of technologists,” he said.
Though things haven’t gone to plan for the new department, Eniojukan wanted to emphasize the administration still has its eye set on seeing it open full time.
“KMHC is committed to ensuring that this service will be where it needs to be to consistently serve the community,” said Eniojukan. “It’s a priority project.”
She also said she’s hopeful about two candidates that recently applied to work as technologists with them. “It’s looking positive right now,” she said.