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Government & Policy

BC to invest $35 million in new medical technologies

VICTORIA – The British Columbia government is investing $35 million in the latest medical technology to improve access to better diagnostic care, announced Premier Gordon Campbell and Health Services Minister Colin Hansen.

Many of the pieces of equipment announced will be in operation by summer 2005, and all the new equipment is expected to be operational by spring 2006.

“Investing in advanced medical technology is one of the best ways we can ensure British Columbians have access to the most effective treatment and care,” Campbell said. “It’s important that we make those investments throughout B.C., to bring state-of-the-art treatment options to patients closer to where they live. This is more than an investment in the latest technology – it’s an investment in our healthcare professionals and in the health and future of the people they care for.”

Highlights of the new equipment include:

• PET/CT scanner at the BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver Cancer Centre: This is the first publicly funded PET unit for the province. It will improve the management of cancer patients by providing accurate pre-treatment detection of cancerous tumours and monitoring therapy response to improve recovery.

• Three new 64-slice CT scanners at Royal Columbian Hospital, Royal Jubilee Hospital and Vancouver General Hospital: Sixty-four slice scanners allow virtual angiographies to be done faster and less expensively than invasive angiographies and will further improve cardiac care in B.C. They are state-of-the-art x-ray machines that produce three-dimensional pictures of a cross section of the body. This will increase provincial capacity for diagnosing heart and brain disease as well as handling trauma cases.

• A mobile MRI scanner for the Kootenays and south Okanagan, and a new 32-slice CT scanner at Kelowna General Hospital. The mobile MRI will significantly improve access for residents of Interior Health to technology that obtains precise images of tissue and various organs in the body without using x-rays. The new CT scanner will enhance access in the Interior for patients with wide ranging needs, including improved trauma diagnosis.

• MRI scanner upgrade at UBC Hospital: The upgrade will further enhance the quality of scans for patients referred from across the province with complex neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s diseases and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

• Systems technology in the North: Advanced radiology and pharmaceutical systems for the Northern Health Authority will enhance access to care and treatment in many small communities while taking advantage of skilled professionals who are located in regional centres. A Picture Archiving Communication System and a Radiology Information System will allow digital images to be shared between hospitals/regions and radiologists across the north. An automated medication dispensing system will allow pharmacists in larger northern centres to provide support and safe and effective drug distribution and dispensing in hospitals across the north.

• Laboratory Centre of Excellence for Genomics in Vancouver: A leading-edge investment in a provincial genomics laboratory that will move ahead our diagnostic, treatment and research agenda in this important and growing area of medicine.

• Radiopharmaceutical Lab and Cyclotron at Vancouver Cancer Centre: A new laboratory and equipment to support advances in nuclear medicine and other forms of advanced imaging. In addition, radioactive isotopes created in this laboratory will be used to treat specific types of cancer.

“By supporting advanced medical technology, we are creating the best kind of healthcare for British Columbians – one that focuses as much on prevention as it does on treatment,” said Hansen. “These new investments in research and equipment will promote better outcomes for patients throughout the province by supporting earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment.”

Since 2001/02, the number of CT scanners in B.C. has increased by over 20 percent, with a total of 37 CT scanners available across the province as of June 2004. Over the same time period, the number of MRI scanners in the province increased by over 75 percent with a total of 16 MRI scanners as of June 2004. These investments have been assisted by federal funding for medical and diagnostic equipment.

The funding for these emerging technology investments also includes $25 million from the 2003 First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care Renewal diagnostic/medical equipment Fund. The remaining $10 million comes from the ministry’s existing capital budget.

In addition, hospital foundations in the Interior will provide $1.5 million additional funding towards the mobile MRI: East Kootenay Foundation for Health, $375,000; Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital and Health Foundation $375,000; and, South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation $750,000.