HUGHES CALLS FOR BEST USE OF PRECIOUS FIRST NATIONS HEALTH DOLLARS

Ultrasound carts purchase would save big on travel costs

Ottawa – The Minister of Health could save money while making it easier for female sonographers to work in a remote part of northwestern Ontario, according to New Democrat First Nation’s Health Critic, Carol Hughes.

Hughes says any replacement for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s soon to be retired sonographer will likely have to be a man if the job still includes lugging heavy portable ultrasound equipment.  Another other option is to have the patients travel to a hub, which is expensive.

“The Mobile Ultrasound Program has dramatically improved maternal health outcomes for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northwestern Ontario,” said Hughes. ‘The current sonographer will retire soon (and) any replacement will cart hundreds of pounds of equipment to 16 remote communities – this rules out many qualified women.”

Hughes noted that portable cart-based scanners are available for less money than it costs to bring patients to a hub which is what happened last time equipment upgrades were needed.  The problem, according to Hughes, is that the money for travel and equipment purchases for First Nations come from different budgets within Health Canada.

“One option is to equip these communities with cart-based scanners at a one-time cost of $15,000 each,’ said Hughes. “Another option spends hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing people to a central location for scans.”

Hughes says the best option is to finance the cart purchase before the current sonographer leaves, but wonders if the government even knows what is coming down the line.

“Will the Minister of Health decide to save money and buy the scanners?”