Ottawa – 20 years ago maternal health outcomes on the Nishnawbe Aski Nation were not in line with national figures, according to New Democrat Aboriginal Health Critic, Carol Hughes.  All that changed with the institution of mobile ultrasound program that now finds itself at a crossroads.

The problem relates to the imminent retirement of the current sonographer and the requirement of any replacement to lug around heavy equipment.  A cost effective solution is being overlooked and Health Canada could end up spending big sums to bring mothers to centralized scanners in Sioux Lookout if semi-portable replacement equipment isn’t acquired, Hughes told the House of Commons last night.

“While the outcomes have improved, the job of the sonographer is truly taxing,” said Hughes.  “The current sonographer carries hundreds of pounds of specialized equipment into remote communities to meet with expectant mothers.”

The federal government is responsible for delivery of health care on First Nations, but the ultrasound program is weaving its way through multiple jurisdictions in an attempt to find money to replace the heavier mobile equipment with two-part cart based machines.  That solution would see a sonographer carry a relatively light “brain” component with them and leave cart bases in each community.

“We could be getting more bang for our buck. The last time the program needed equipment replaced there was a 6 month gap during which Health Canada spent half a million dollars moving patients to permanent machines in Sioux Lookout,” said Hughes.  “The best option may be to equip these communities with the two part scanners at a one-time cost of $15,000 each.”

Hughes concluded by calling on the government to make the best use of precious resources to deliver this important program in the most efficient way possible.