Shortage of ultrasound techs having an impact at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

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VERNON - A province-wide shortage of ultrasound technologists is being felt in Vernon.

An ultrasound machine purchased for Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s mammography unit in early summer 2016 is currently not being used to its full potential because there is no one to operate it on a full time basis.

The machine was purchased thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation, and Interior Health Authority spokesperson Kim Perris says it will improve the experience and wait times for women requiring breast ultrasounds.

“The big hold back right now is the lack of ultrasound technologists,” Perris says. “We have this machine sitting there, but B.C. has a huge shortage of technologists.”

The machine is being used as much as possible, Perris says, however the clinic does not have a full time staff member to fill the position, which is leaving the device under-used.

“It is frustrating and the frustration is felt across the whole province,” Perris says.

However, she says the machine has already enhanced patient care. Previously, women who received a mammogram and learned they would also require a breast ultrasound would have to wait for an opening in the diagnostic imaging department later in the day, or were booked in for a future date. Having an ultrasound machine right in the mammogram unit means patients can have the exams done during the same appointment. inquired about the device in response to an anonymous tip we received indicating there were no technicians to operate it, which was leading to delays in diagnoses.

According to Interior Health, patients are prioritized for exams based on the urgency of their situation.

“Anyone urgent that needs to get done is getting done,” Perris says.

The shortage of ultrasound technologists is a challenge at other Interior Health facilities as well, and Perris says they are working to recruit people at ultrasound conferences and by advertising in medical journals.

“The province is looking at this right now because it’s such a need across all health authorities,” Perris says. “We’re looking at ways to solve this and ways to get through his, because we don’t want it to affect patient care.”

The ultrasound machine is one of many medical devices fundraised for by the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation, and spokesperson Sue Beaudry says she is confident Interior Health is putting it to good use.

“We trust that they’ve made the right decision when they identify a piece of equipment that needs to be purchased at the hospital,” Beaudry says. “I trust this was a good purchase and I’m sure it will be well used.”

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