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Portable X-rays to expand health care access for northern Sask. Indigenous communities

Click to play video: 'Indigenous community getting access to portable X-ray machine'
Indigenous community getting access to portable X-ray machine
An AI algorithm was developed to give a diagnosis, and the X-rays can also be sent to radiologists in Saskatchewan – Oct 3, 2022

New portable X-rays are expanding health care access for Indigenous members of remote northern Saskatchewan communities.

Genevieve St. Denis, preventative health manager for Peter Ballantyne Health Services in Prince Albert, confirmed that three portable X-rays have been placed in Deschambault Lake, Pelican Narrows, and Southend communities, with one more headed to Sandy Bay. These machines were brought in partnership with Deepak Synthesis Health Inc. and Fuji Film Canada.

Before portable X-rays, clients would have to arrange to travel south to attend diagnostic imaging centers. Patients would travel as long as eight hours to clinics in Prince Albert or Saskatoon, leaving their families and communities to access medical care.

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Deepak Kaura, pediatric interventional radiologist of Alberta Children’s Hospital and chief medical officer of Synthesis Health, spoke on the lengths community members were going to in order to receive basic health care.

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“It is quite astounding. We live in an urban center with access to universal health care that isn’t so universal. I was really humbled at the lengths that people have to go to get some form of what we would consider in the rest of Canada as basic standard care.”

Each portable X-ray machine is about the size of a regular Canon camera. The images gathered by the machine are exported via the internet to a cloud repository where an artificial intelligence (AI) image runs and shows health center nurses and radiologists the generated diagnostics.

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Kaura’s plan is to work with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to have the X-rays report the data to the provincial system for the continuity of care if the patient is transferred to Saskatoon or Prince Albert.

This is hoped to become a default way of care for Indigenous people across Canada.

As a member of northern Indigenous communities, St. Denis said the new technology will go a long way in improving care.

“To see this technology come to our communities is so significant because we are able to do the X-ray, get the diagnosis almost immediately. That impacts the health care for our members and our communities because we can provide much quicker treatment, better planning, and provide more efficient care for our members in their home communities.”

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She added there are significant benefits for families, travel support, and the overall well-being for the client.

The X-rays are expected to be in full use the week of Oct. 1.

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