The fight for medical services in Golden is a constant struggle for hospital staff, and sometimes it has little to do with funding and a lot to do with staffing issues.
That’s the case for the current void at the Golden and District Hospital, where the facility is without a resident sonographer (an ultra sound technologist)at the moment.
Sonography goes beyond pregnancy appointments and can be used to view a variety of internal organs, such as the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, liver, and other organs.
“It’s got a lot of broad uses. It can identify serious surgical conditions like appendicitis, torted ovaries, and life-threatening conditions like aneurysms,” said Dr. Kirk McCarroll, the chief of staff at the hospital.
Ultrasound can also be used to identify muscle and tendon tears, a common occurrence in a town like Golden.
For many years, the sonographer role was filled by Beth Webb. She retired a few years ago, forcing the hospital to contract a sonographer from out of town while it looked for a replacement. Having a temporary sonographer proved to be problematic.
“That left us without one for any of the emergency situations, for which we quite heavily rely on it,” McCarroll said.
Webb, out of what McCarroll says was possibly the goodness of her heart, came out of retirement and worked for another 18 months as Golden’s lone sonographer in what was supposed to be a short-term solution. Her contact expired in December, and she retired for the second time.
That leaves the town where it was a few years ago, with a contracted sonographer providing occasional services and with many Goldenites forced to make ultrasound appointments in Cranbrook.
“It’s a real burden on a lot of people,” McCarroll said.
“It’s too much to ask of people, it’s going to be a real disincentive for people to come to our community.”
There is plenty of funding for Golden to find a replacement for Webb, but few, if any, leads have been fruitful in the hospital’s search thus far.
“The challenge has been recruitment. As you might imagine, the salaries in Alberta are substantially higher than they are here and therefore that’s one of our huge stumbling blocks, because we are competing against a province that is capable of offering more financially,” McCarroll said.
McCarroll says that the hospital briefly considered the possibility of having one of their physicians go through sonography training, but it was never a realistic option. The program takes over two years, and taking a valuable physician away from the hospital would hurt in other ways. Instead, they’d like to hire a full-time sonographer who is pleased to live and work in the Golden area for the foreseeable future.
“Ideally our objective is to recruit a technologist to become a regular part of the medical team. I think that’s critical for our town to continue to provide the medical services that we currently have, we just rely on it so heavily for emergency services specifically…we really need to have an on-site technologist who lives here and is a regular member of the team,” McCarroll said.
The search for a new sonographer is being supported by Keep Medical Services in Golden, a Facebook group made up of community members who have been sharing Interior Health’s job posting around social media. For full position details, visit interiorhealth.ca.