Donations supply local echocardiography

A new addition to the Cowichan District Hospital will provide one more service that patients won’t have to leave the area for.

A new addition to the Cowichan District Hospital will provide one more service that patients won’t have to leave the area for.

Thanks to more than $300,000 raised by the CDH Foundation, the hospital now has its own echocardiography unit that will serve both inpatients and outpatients who previously had to travel to Victoria for the same procedure.

“There were significant wait times, but this should help with cutting them down and keeping everybody local,” CDH Foundation office manager Aimee Sherwood said.

The majority of the money raised by the Foundation went to the purchase of two echocardiograph machines, including one that can be moved around the hospital to conduct bedside tests.

An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create pictures or video of the inside of the heart as it beats. During the test, electrodes are placed on a patient’s chest to show the heart’s rhythm, and a handheld ultrasound probe covered with gel is placed on the chest to take pictures.

Outpatients previously had to find their own way to Victoria for echo tests, while inpatients were transported there by Island Health, often forcing them to extend their hospital stays.

“One of our goals, when it is appropriate and possible, is to make treatment convenient for patients and their families,” said Ryan Davis, the director of Island Health’s Heart Health Program.

The biggest challenges in creating new hospital units, Davis explained are finding space, funding and personnel.

The hospital created the space, the foundation came up with the funding, and technicians are relocating from Victoria. Fortunately, there were technicians working in Victoria and living in the Cowichan Valley who welcomed the opportunity to eliminate their commutes.

“Traditionally, finding trained staff is difficult on the Island,” Davis said.

The new unit is already seeing patients, and should have two full-time technicians working Monday to Friday by April or May. At full capacity, it will serve 14 patients a day, a mix of inpatients and outpatients.

“This is a boon to patients in the area,” said Dr. Karan Shetty, medical director of echocardiography labs on Vancouver Island. “We are excited to move forward.”

Other Island Health brass also hailed the unit’s opening.

“This is an excellent opportunity for people in the Cowichan Valley and the Island overall, bringing technology closer to people in the community,” said Emma James, Island Health area director for the Cowichan Valley.

“This means they won’t have to travel down to Victoria, and we don’t have to pay the costs to increase the length of their stay,” CDH site director Vanessa Swanson added.

The hard work of the CDH Foundation was praised many times at the opening of the new unit, but Sherwood pointed out that the money came from the community.

“This was funded through the generosity of the community,” she said. “We facilitate it, but they donate it.”