Donation to RUH leads to new service to remote Saskatchewan communities

A generous donation to the Royal University Hospital is creating a new way to provide better healthcare to Saskatchewan's remote and northern communities. Adam MacVicar / Global News

A $300,000 donation from the Leslie and Irene Dubé Foundation is about to open the door to better treatment in Saskatchewan’s remote northern communities.

With the donated funds, the Royal University Hospital (RUH) has purchased an ultrasound imaging system; the first in North America, it’s used to deliver real-time medical assessments and diagnosis to patients living in remote and rural areas.

“It’s extremely important because of the issue of access to ultra-sonography services,” Dr. Ivar Mendez, Saskatoon Health Region and University of Saskatchewan (U of S) head of surgery, said. “It’s especially important for maternal and infant care.”

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According to Mendez, the lack of access to a pre-maternal ultrasound test is concerning.

“We will be able to offer them access to ultrasounds in a culturally safe manner, in their own communities, with their own families, with the expertise that’s available to the rest of us,” Mendez said.

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The system has multiple components; the imaging unit will be in the remote community and is guided by a local nurse, and an imitation probe along with a video conferencing system will allow a doctor or radiologist in Saskatoon to analyze a patient in real-time.

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This new treatment is expected to save money for both patients and the hospital.

“We spend millions of dollars transporting patients from their home communities to the centralized system,” Mendez said. “So to be able not only to provide the ultrasound in their own communities; we’ll avoid the travel expenses, and importantly it will determine potential complications early enough so it will be less expensive to treat.”

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The systems are free of charge and costs of installation are expected to be minimal.

There is no word yet on which community will receive the ultrasound system, but a decision is expected in the next month.

“Where we want to deploy this machine is in areas of the greatest need,” Mendez said.

Officials claim Saskatchewan is leading the way when it comes to remote presence technology, and further treatment options will be unveiled down the road.

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Back at RUH, a remote presence technology room at the U of S will officially be named the “Leslie and Irene Dubé Foundation Remote Presence Medicine Centre” in honor of the donation.

“We are truly humbled and grateful for your support that enables our health care teams to take a leadership role in this exciting journey,” Dr. Paul Babyn, Royal University Hospital Foundation board chair, said in a release.

The donation was part of the $20-million “GREATE.R. Campaign” at RUH.

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