Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Trip to the Diagnostics Lab

I spent 4 hours in the Nuclear Medicine dept at my local hospital this morning for a Cardiolyte test (radioactive dye in my blood vessels to take a look at my heart functions). Anyhow while I was there listening, watching, thinking for a few hours, I made some observations.

First off - the amazing equipment they have available. This is far from a state of the art hospital, but we do have some pretty cool tools. I have not needed an MRI or anything like that before, just a few regular xrays and one CT scan 6 years ago. This time I got to be further in the bowels of the dept and it was amazing. After having the dye injected, I went for imaging and it was like a mini-CT with moving bed, imaging screens that mapped everything out and took photos for 20 mins. Once the techs got me set up, the machine did everything else. This speeds things along because it can be a continuous process instead of stopping and starting to adjust the bed, screens, etc. I can imagine that thing cost a pretty penny! I saw rooms with other specialized equipment such as a wicked looking Sky Life machine (which appeared to fill the entire large room). The cost of these inventions must be astronomical and it has advanced how humans can look after each other's health in extraordinary ways. But - it posed the question in my mind yet again of HOW do we keep being able to buy this technology with a system that is based largely on tax dollars? Hospitals here already cannot purchase new equipment without that funding and huge donations from private companies and individuals. If people keep struggling and losing their jobs or having hours and salaries cut, how can our tax program and donation systems keep up with the funding needed for the technology, the training for personnel running it, the repairs, and so on?

Meanwhile I thought about how I had to wait almost 3 months for this test, despite a cardiologist finding that I may have had a previous heart attack without knowing it, or a blockage in an artery. I think about how if more private insurance was available, I could have had the test sooner as well as putting more money into the healthcare system at the same time. We cannot keep this up. We are already behind in a lot of technology, or begging for donations year round to purchase equipment, and we are just going to fall behind even more. It's sad. Now I am waiting for the second part of my tests, an ECG. The nurse told me today that it might take awhile because there are not enough people in our city who are trained to do it. Only 2.5 years ago I needed and ECG and I got it within about a week. Apparently we had enough techs back then to handle the load, but now we don't. Why the hell not? We have the equipment sitting here doing NOTHING because the province cannot or will not hire more staff. Isn't that just special. So yet again, patients are waiting and we assume it's because there is a huge waiting list - but that's not the full truth. There is a huge waiting list because there are not enough staff members. There could be 3 ECG machines at the lab, but only 1 or 2 people. Hiring just 1 more person would help the line move quickly, and ECG only takes about a half hour from my experience.... that could pull 10 or more people a day out of the list, but nope. We get to sit around. That's sad.

On a different topic, I had an interesting chat with the nurse who was putting in my IV line. I told her it didn't hurt at all, I couldn't even feel it (yay). Then she pulled out the metal needle full of the Cardiolyte dye and commented that even though it was small, it was quite heavy. That stuff HAS to be in metal, but she commented that she can't imagine what it was like before plastic was invented. She said 'thank god for plastic', because elderly patients had told her how much nicer it is to have a small plastic tube in their arm instead of a metal needle taped in there. EWWW. Imagine having that taped to your arm and needing it in there for a day, weeks, months even. The weight of a small metal needle and cap pulls the hole open no matter how sticky the tape is or how little you try to move around.  Talk about painful! So with the development of plastics, a huge portion of the medical field was changed. Yet plastic comes from OIL, the very thing that so many govts are trying to cut down on. Sure, they might not cut it for medical supplies - but how do we know for sure? Almost everything you encounter in a hospital these days has plastic on it somewhere. Every needle, stethoscope, glove, bed, tube, saline and medication bag/bottle, machine, monitor, etc etc is or has plastic involved. Ohhhh the evils of oil eh? Perhaps we should just go back to metal syringes hanging out of our arms and do away with any scanners that cannot have metal near them, or come home from the hospital full of multiple holes because each scan required the metal IV syringe to be removed and then replaced afterward (example, today I had to have two sets of scans where no metal was allowed on my body). We should sacrifice these types of technological advances in order to use less oil, don't you think?


  1. Good luck with the results on your CTscan!

  2. There are a lot of tests not done that ought to be done because the doctors are not being paid for it or not being paid enough for it. In the U.S. there are tests done that might not be done but the doctor would be sued if he did not do the test.

    I have recently spoken to a Canadian from Ontario who has had major surgery done without a few basic tests to determine if the patient truly needs the procedure. She is not doing well because the general surgeon never did some basic tests. The sad truth is that the splashy equipment gets the glamour funding whereas the necessary but mundane appearing tests are ignored to the patients detriment.

    It has always been thus in Canada unless it is brain surgery or heart surgery are something else that catches the public eye. Canada is generally 5 years behing the Americans in picking up on many new but mundane modalities because of funding issues. These new modalties save lives.



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