Nova Scotia's Department of Health and Wellness has released a list of medical equipment that has been approved for funding, one week after an Antigonish doctor sounded the alarm over a lack of funding for necessary equipment in hospitals.
The nine district health authorities and the IWK Health Centre asked for a combined 94 items this year. To date, 35 of them have been approved at a cost of about $10.6 million.
Granting all of the requests for 2014-2015 would have cost more than $28 million, according to numbers provided by the Department of Health and Wellness.
All of the IWK Health Centre's requests and all but one of the Capital District Health Authority's requests have been approved this year. Those items account for nearly $8 million.
The Colchester East Hants Health Authority fared the worst this year. It requested 10 items — including an anesthetic machine, an operating room table and new neonatal resuscitation equipment — and not one has been approved.
Anne Yuill, the head of acute and tertiary care at the Department of Health and Wellness, said money is limited.
She said equipment requests are scored using a set of criteria that include safety concerns, life of the equipment, how often the equipment is used and the wait times at each district health authority.
"It varies from year to year and it's again, based on the prices that we follow and the criteria and the scores and the ranking," said Yuill.
Medical equipment technology changes rapidly, posing challenges to health authorities, according to Peter MacKinnon, the chief executive of the Colchester East Hants Health Authority.
'It is a very intense piece of work'
In some cases equipment becomes obsolete and replacement parts can't be found. In other cases there are technological upgrades that improve diagnoses and care.
"You have those two forces prevailing at the same time," MacKinnon said.
While the health authority did not receive approval this year for anything on its equipment wish list, MacKinnon notes many new pieces were installed when then the new health centre in Truro opened two years ago.
He said he also remains in favour of the current system where the province scores requests according to various criteria.
The wait times for an ultrasound in Antigonish recently jumped from 15 days to six months after two of three ultrasound machines at St. Martha's Regional Hospital were decommissioned because they were not giving accurate results.
The chief of the department of diagnostic imaging for Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority said the 10-year-old machines should have been replaced years ago and accused the province of failing to properly plan to replace old equipment.
The Department of Health and Wellness has started to build an inventory of medical equipment to better understand when each piece needs replacing.
"It is a very intense piece of work and it is not something that can be done all together, at the same time," said Yuill.
She said there's no guarantee that an inventory will mean immediate funding of necessary equipment.
Here is the list of all medical equipment requested by the district health authorities in Nova Scotia this year. The items in yellow have been approved for funding: