Sydney Nova Scotia Hospital

$800,000 hospital camera sits idle for a year in Sydney

The province purchased a new nuclear medicine camera more than a year ago for the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, but it is still in crates at the hospital in Sydney. Nova Scotia Health Authority spokesman Greg Boone says even though the camera hasn't been installed yet, wait times and patients have not been affected. (TOM AYERS / Cape Breton Bureau)SYDNEY — A new nuclear medicine camera is still sitting in crates more than a year after it was purchased for Cape Breton Regional Hospital, which NDP health critic Dave Wilson says is evidence of poor decision-making in Halifax.

Rakesh Minocha, senior director of building, infrastructure and asset management for the Nova Scotia health authority, said the camera was bought in late 2014 and delivered last March.

It hasn’t been installed yet, because the province is still working on plans to renovate a room to house the new equipment, he said, and the installation is expected to go to tender in the new fiscal year, which begins in April.

The installation wasn’t a priority in Sydney, where the main hospital has three functioning nuclear medicine cameras ranging from eight to 25 years old, said Minocha.

He also said the new camera was purchased before amalgamation of the district health authorities last year, and the transition to a provincewide body has added to the delay.

“In March 2015, we transitioned to a brand new organization. We had new business processes that were implemented or that we were implementing at that time.

“We were aware that this (camera) is an item that needs to be addressed, but at the same time, we also knew that there were three cameras in operation at Cape Breton Regional, and we did not have any service issues at this point in time.

“So it’s something that didn’t jump to the top of the priority queue. It’s really something that could have waited without impacting patients.”

Minocha also said the renovations required to house the new camera, which is larger than the oldest of the existing ones, are “quite significant, ” including ventilation of heat generated by the gear and lead lining for the walls.

The camera cost around $800, 000 and was purchased at the same time as two others that were required elsewhere, so the bulk purchase provided “competitive” pricing, he said.

The cost of the renovations will depend, in part, on the design of the installation, which is still being completed, said Minocha, but the estimated cost is not being released to ensure a fair tender process.

Wilson said at least one health-care worker at the hospital has expressed concern about the new camera sitting idle, especially if it means the health authority can’t afford to install the equipment or if the warranty will expire before it sees its first patient.

In December, health authority CEO Janet Knox said she has asked senior staff to leave some job openings unfilled and to cut costs by one per cent in order to meet the operating budget by year-end on March 31.

Minocha said equipment purchases and installation fall under the capital budget, and that has not been cut. The decision to delay installation was simply due to priorities, he said.

Authority spokesman Greg Boone said the warranty starts once the equipment is installed.

He said nuclear medicine cameras are used to take internal images of patients who have swallowed or been injected with low-level radioactive material.

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