Ultrasound services will be available at the Dawson City and Watson Lake hospitals on a rotating basis come the new year, the Yukon government announced Dec. 17.
Beginning in January, a sonographer accompanied by portable equipment will be visiting the community hospitals every other month for a few days to provide non-urgent ultrasound services by appointment.
A sonographer will be in Dawson City from Jan. 14 to 17 and Watson Lake from Feb. 18 to 20, with most appointments already filled.
People requiring emergency ultrasounds will continue to be medevaced to Whitehorse, which is currently the only place in the Yukon where ultrasounds of any kind are offered.
Yukon Hospital Corporation spokesperson Matt Davidson said the program is a one-year trial, with sonographer services being provided on a contract basis and the equipment, rented.
The corporation is expecting that the cost of the program will be “net-neutral,” he said, due to an anticipated reduction in medical travel from the communities to Whitehorse.
“I mean, most importantly it’s not really driven by cost,” Davidson told the News.
“We constantly evaluate ways to bring services closer wherever it’s appropriate and this was certainly the case… Above all it will help reduce the need for Yukoners to travel to Whitehorse so there’s less interruption to their home and work life. It can be quite a trip for an exam that’s pretty much like a core standard of care for any hospital, so we’re pretty happy to roll this out in the communities.”
The demand for ultrasounds is one of the “fastest-growing” among medical imaging services, Davidson added, with the corporation seeing a five to 10 per cent growth a year.
“(With) advancements and improvements with technology it gets a bit easier to offer services like this on a more mobile basis,” he said.
Department of Health and Social Services spokesperson Patricia Living described the mobile ultrasound unit as “a laptop, essentially.”
Whitehorse General Hospital receives nearly 9,000 ultrasound requests a year, according to the Yukon government’s press release. Nearly 450 general ultrasounds, including abdominal, pelvic and some obstetrical tests, are expected to be performed in the Dawson City and Watson Lake hospitals under the pilot. The number of patients that will be serviced is unclear as some patients may require more than one ultrasound.
Living said there are currently no plans to expand the pilot to other communities. Yukoners living in communities closer to Dawson or Watson Lake, though, will have the option of booking ultrasounds there instead of Whitehorse.
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