WINCHESTER — The local area was blessed to have its aging community hospital completely rebuilt from the ground up a decade ago. But Winchester District Memorial Hospital’s $60-million overhaul came with a corresponding curse — scads of new equipment doomed to reach end of life all at the same time.
And that time is now.
“We were built in 2009, and we moved in and it was awesome — all new equipment,” Lynn Hall, Senior Vice President of Clinical Services at WDMH, told the Chesterville Rotary Club in a special presentation earlier this month. “Ten years later … this all-new equipment is not new and breaking down. It was all purchased at once. It was phenomenal what we had in 2009. Today, we have to really rely on our fundraising and donors because … everything’s breaking down at one time. It’s sad.”
In contact with colleagues at other Ontario hospitals currently undergoing a similar revamp as WDMH’s, Hall said she advises them: “Don’t think it’s really cool to get all new equipment when you move in, because it’s not really cool in 10 years.”
Also serving as Chief Nursing Executive and Professional Practice Leader at WDMH, she said the hospital has developed a priority list of just over $1-million worth of equipment needing immediate replacement this year and next. All of that must be raised privately because the provincial government — by long tradition — does not fund the purchase of new hospital equipment.
High on that list are two ultrasound machines, worth about $160,000 each, according to Dr. Jose Aquino, radiologist and Chief of Medical Imaging at WDMH.
“They have a certain amount of life, and after a while it doesn’t work,” Aquino said of the ultrasound units, flashing a photo on screen of a current model in use at the hospital and telling his audience not to be fooled by its modern appearance. “What happens when they break is we don’t see things as well. We really have to replace these machines.”
The ultrasounds at WDMH are used about 7,000 times annually, he said, and not just to examine pregnancies. “We use them everyday; we use them on weekends.”
“Obstetrical patients, kidney patients, gall bladder examinations and as an adjunct to breast examination. Heart, carotid artery, it can do a lot of things,” the doctor explained, describing the units as “an extension” of the physician’s eyes but without emitting the radiation of other technologies. “You see them a lot in emergency departments as well.”
The hospital has fortunately extended the life of another costly piece of diagnostic imaging equipment, the WDMH CT scanner, which will otherwise cost millions to replace one day. Hall acknowledged that doughnut-shaped machine was getting “scarily” close to obsolescence until a recent upgrade from the manufacturer “gave us another 10 years.”
The presence of the CT scanner has been a boon to WDMH patients, as Aquino noted the wait list for a routine follow-up scan in Ottawa stands at over a year but only eight weeks in Winchester. “That’s what the difference is.”
But there’s been no such reprieve for the general x-ray machine at WDMH — another “big-ticket item” that will need to be replaced next year, according to Hall.
The medical visitors expressed their gratitude to the community for continuing to donate toward equipment replacement at WDMH. “Thank you for all you do, in terms of raising money, and some of that money which you give to us,” Aquino said to the Rotarians.
“I’m just here to say thank-you so much,” said the WDMH Foundation’s Kristen Casselman on behalf of the hospital’s fundraising entity. “We are one team and our donors are so very important.”
Whatever the financial challenges, the combination of privately fundraised capital dollars and provincial operating funds coincides with some other important numbers at WDMH: High patient satisfaction ratings. Hall presented survey results showing a 99 percent satisfaction rate for patients staying at least one night at the institution. One hundred percent of mothers giving birth at WDMH — 900 last year — were satisfied with their care, as were 100 percent of surgical patients.
Ninety-three percent of emergency department users report being satisfied, several points above the 87 percent provincial satisfaction rate with Ontario’s emergency rooms.
The WDMH delegation presented to the local Rotarians on behalf of club member Chris Barkley, also employed at the hospital as an executive assistant.