One down, many to go 

Whistler Health Care Centre puts mobile x-ray machine to work, but could use more equipment

The Whistler Health Care Centre's latest addition may be saving more lives this year.

A high-tech, portable x-ray machine is the newest piece of equipment at the busy centre, which has been inundated with patients since the mountain opened.

"This is an important part of being a really good trauma centre," said Dianne Sherk, the department manager of radiology.

The portable machine is such an important piece of equipment simply because it speeds up the x-raying process, as well as limiting the number of times a patient is moved.

"With a really badly injured patient, to have to move them you're always putting them at risk," said Marnie Simon, the chair of the Whistler Health Care Foundation.

A special stretcher, made of material that the x-ray can penetrate, was also purchased to go along with the portable machine.

Working in combination, the machine can be quickly wheeled over to the stretcher in the trauma room and can take x-rays of the pelvis, spine and chest without disturbing the patient.

In the past, a patient was stabilized on a stretcher then transferred to the x-ray room and onto the x-ray table.

"When you have a portable you can actually go to the patient while the doctors are still working on the patient. It makes everything much more efficient," said Sherk.

This machine was on the centre's capital equipment list for the past year but the government was unable to provided the approximately $65,000 that was needed to buy both the machine and the stretcher.

So the Whistler Health Care Foundation stepped up to the challenge of finding the money.

The foundation's board applied for a grant from the Blackcomb Foundation and received $32,000. The Community Health Council covered the shortfall.

Since it arrived at the centre about four weeks ago, the machine and stretcher have been used about eight times.

"It's really nice to have it here," said Sherk. "You're only as good as your equipment."

Now the foundation is turning its attention to raising the money for another piece of x-ray equipment.

"There seems to be a big focus on x-ray equipment at the moment because it's trauma diagnostic equipment and the centre is overwhelmed with trauma," said Simon.

The next purchase will be a mobile C-Arm. This type of machine allows the doctor to see how broken bones are setting together before putting on a cast. It is a crucial piece of equipment in a place like the Whistler Health Care Centre, which sees its share of broken bones.

The foundation currently has very little money in its budget to buy the mobile C-Arm, which will cost approximately $100,000.

"We would love to have it this winter season but unless we get a big influx of money it's not very likely, I guess," said Simon.

She estimates the board will have about $12,000 in its coffers after being the major recipient from Cornucopia this year, among other things.

Next the board will be applying for grants to reach its target.

Simon said the foundation has only recently shifted its focus to fund-raising activities. Up until now, it has been allocating funds leftover from the construction of the heli-pad.

Some of those extra funds were spent on a new ultrasound machine, but due to various funding glitches within the system, this machine cannot be maximized at the centre to its full potential.

"We have an ultrasound machine but we don't have the funding or the staffing to run it more than two days a week," said Simon.

"The bottom line is that for the number of clients that come through, the facility is not quite adequate," she added.

But the foundation is working hard to change that and trying to come up with innovative ways to fund-raise effectively.

"The need is huge. It is very inequitable how hard people work and the volume of patients that go through this place in comparison to the money that goes into it," she said.

The foundation has also been focussing its efforts on making 1,600 handmade Christmas crackers, which they are selling in bundles of eight. Each bundle costs $50 and inside there is one gift certificate from a local donor. Some of those certificates include a $100 dinner for two at Wildflower or Portabello, a $80 full body massage at Marnie's Gables Wellness Centre and a $100 certificate for the adelle campbell Gallery, among many others.

The crackers are for sale at the Whistler Health Care Centre or Simon says businesses can also buy them in bulk.

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