After more than two years of planning and construction, a celebration of women’s health was held Wednesday (April 3) at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.
The occasion was the official opening of the new mammography suite at the hospital and an opportunity to meet Christina, the state-of-the-art mammography unit complete with a new tool, contrast mammography, which allows clinicians to accurately diagnose the extent of the cancer.
It’s the second mammography unit housed at STEGH
But the afternoon event and tour of the warm and friendly suite was more than just a ribbon-cutting exercise.
“Today marks not only a true celebration of vision, accomplishment, renovation, and expansion, but a celebration of the human factor,” observed Sharon Keenan, diagnosed with breast cancer 15 months ago.
The occasion was also one of hope for a similar celebration at the hospital in the not-to-distant future.
“I am really excited about possibilities for the future,” enthused Robert Biron, hospital president and CEO.
“We have put an application in for a new MRI service. That application was approved by the local health integration network and it is now at the Ministry of Health. We are cautiously optimistic that in the near term we’ll be able to be here again announcing a new service.”
It was also a time to acknowledge the many individuals, families, and organizations who made the second mammography unit a reality.
“I would like to thank our donors for their generous donations,” stressed Yolanda Mundt, the hospital’s manager of diagnostic imaging.
“I hope you know what your generosity has done for our department. These donations don’t just fund bricks, mortar, paint and equipment purchases. Your donations inspire us to go from a basic service not that long ago . . . to having state-of-the-art equipment and staff that are dedicated to not only meet CCO (Cancer Care Ontario) guidelines but exceed them.”
Mundt continued, “Because we understand the meaning of the impact of time. Decisions are actually not that difficult when you base your decisions as though they are family members.
“When total strangers think nothing of donating money, not even knowing what that end result will look like. They only hope that this money will do something good for somebody.”
“This new suite will allow women and men to experience their emotions in the privacy of a warm, aesthetically pleasing, non-institutionalized environment, with a message of ‘we care.'”
The road to the new mammography suite began in 2016, noted Mundt, with the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment and the creation of a new space to house it.
“With that quality improvement, that was the beginning of our vision,” continued Mundt.
“Wanting to create a program that truly served our Elgin county patients. We quickly noted we outgrew our space and as well we needed to focus on the path of the patients and what they experienced throughout their journey.”
“The new mammography suite is a healthcare partnership at its best,” added Kathy Cook Noble, chair of the hospital foundation board of directors.
“It demonstrates a commitment to working together to provide excellent healthcare for our families, friends, and neighbours in our community now and into the future.”
With the suite officially up and running the goal now, said Biron, is the filing of an application “to be recognized as an Ontario Breast Screening Program assessment centre. And that’s essentially to recognize the work and services we’re currently providing.”
The hospital has offered breast screening since 1999, however, the new suite provides privacy and dignity, advised Brenda Fleming, director of the South West Regional Cancer Program.
She pointed out, according to 2017 statistics, “in some regions, including Elgin county, one in two screen-eligible women are either overdue or are not being screened for breast cancer, according to best evidence.”
That could be for numerous reasons, including fear or access to services.
“We can and we must do more to support these women to access key services,” she added.
Keenan’s 58 visits to the hospital during her personal journey were reason enough to extend an invitation to sit on STEGH’s patient experience committee. Something she considers “a great privilege.”
In an emotional recounting of her journey, Keenan observed, “I know first hand the experience of checking in at the old X-ray department, carrying your file marked ‘abnormal’ down the public corridor to the small waiting room with volunteers and filling out forms. I’ve seen the opening of your gown at the back while you go over to the ultrasound department.
“After today, those days are gone. This new suite will allow women and men to experience their emotions in the privacy of a warm, aesthetically pleasing, non-institutionalized environment, with a message of ‘we care.’
“The emotional intelligence of empathy, kindness, compassion, patience, encouragement, engagement and dedication. Which are all critical in patient experience.”
And, to reinforce the impact of decisions made by those community donors, Mundt assured them “You have made a wise investment that will impact many lives.
“You are seeing a legacy program that you have helped create that will not only serve today but for years to come as we see our population grow and demands increase. We are ready.”
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