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Diagnostic imaging

CT scans done in trailer at Welland hospital

WELLAND, Ont. – A portable computed tomography (CT) unit has found a temporary home at Welland hospital, as the permanent CT suite undergoes renovations. When the decision was made to replace the hospital’s aging CT unit, diagnostic imaging clinical leaders at Niagara Health System had to find a creative way to cover several weeks without a key diagnostic tool, said an NHS news release. It was decided a portable unit would be the best solution.

“We knew there would be a five-week renovation and installation period required to replace our current CT,” said Bonnie Sipos, regional technical director of diagnostic imaging.

Sipos said a hospital undergoing a CT replacement generally transfers patients to another hospital with the required equipment.

“In our case, there were several factors to consider – we estimated about 925 inpatients, emergency patients and outpatients would have to go to Niagara Falls or St. Catharines,” she said.

Sipos said transferring patients to other sites would require arranging for a paramedic-equipped ambulance to be at the site for emergency patients requiring a CT scan.

“We would also need to provide extra nurses to travel with serious cases and inpatients. We decided to find a better way,” she said.

A rarity in both the province and country, the portable and self-contained CT trailer has been leased for a five-week period and is now up and running at Welland hospital, which is in Ontario’s Niagara region.

The 16-slice CT machine, full computer hardware and software that integrate with the hospital system, a hydraulic lift for stretcher cases and a transformer for extra electricity needs are all contained in and connected to the trailer, which is in effect a CT department on wheels.

The mobile CT, provided by DMS Health Technologies, came from New York. “We’re pleased that we were able to find this solution and make it work for our community,” Sipos said.

She said within a day CT staff moved the service to the trailer and began scanning patients.

The portable unit has allowed the hospital to continue to provide CT services for roughly 30 patients a day. Renovations in the permanent CT suite have begun while the portable unit is in place.

The old CT machine, which served the community for 10 years, has been removed and the suite is being renovated to accommodate the new unit. “We’re going from a four-slice CT to a 128-slice CT, so the upgrades needed in the suite are major,” Sipos said.

The mobile CT will be on-site until mid-August, when renovations will be complete and the new CT will be fully operational. “Hospital services can’t shut down for renovations,” Sipos said. “This solution is working well for our patients, our physicians and our staff.”

Posted July 30/09.