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CT scanner project finally going ahead

Construction to begin in April; equipment should be operational in October



It's almost here.

The 64-slide Computer Tomography (CT) scanner should be up-and-running in Whistler by October - three years after local governments and health care foundations started their laborious journey to get the medical imaging equipment in the corridor.

According to Anna Marie D'Angelo, senior media relations officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, the latest bids for the multi-million dollar construction project to house the scanner came back within budget. And the project partners are preparing to start building the 900-square-foot addition to the Whistler Health Care Centre next month.

"We are hoping to have it completed in six months," said D'Angelo.

This news comes three months after the first round of bids came in $600,000, or 25 per cent, over budget. At that time, the partners re-tendered the construction project, hoping the rapidly changing construction landscape would bring in more economical proposals.

That happened. According to D'Angelo, significantly more construction groups bid on the project this time.

"The multiple bids means there was more competition for the work in the re-tendering and a better price," she said.

Scott Construction is overseeing the project. About 75 per cent of the accepted bids were from Vancouver companies, and 25 per cent from Whistler companies, added D'Angelo.

Marnie Simon, chair of the Whistler Health Care Foundation, said she is looking forward to having the CT scanner finally installed - although she wished it would have happened sooner.

"To be quite honest, I am very disappointed that the process took so long, and it was always our intention to have the CT Scanner operational in time for the pre-Olympic training that has been going on," said Simon.

"I think it has been proven that it would have been a great asset to our clinic to have it during the period of time that so many high risk athletic things are going on.

"But we are pleased that is now moving ahead. It will be a wonderful thing for the whole corridor - not just Whistler - and it is going to provide a much needed service."

The project is unusual in scope because the capital is funded 100 per cent by local health care foundations and taxpayers.

Between 2006 and 2007, foundations in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish raised $1.1 million for the scanner. Also, the Sea to Sky Regional Hospital District (RHD) planned to contribute $500,000 of taxpayer money, but later increased that amount to $1.21 million after the project's budget rose by almost $1 million last year.

"We are looking forward to completion," said Susie Gimse, from RHD.

"I think it is fair to say the Olympics was the catalyst for the project, but overall the region residents benefit."

Once the CT scanner is installed, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) will pay all the operational costs.

International Olympic sponsor, General Electric, will donate the state-of-the-art CT Scanner to the region in advance of the Games. The scanner, worth $1.4 million, will be used to better diagnose brain, organ and tissue injuries through X-ray images before patients are referred to hospitals in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, as the CT Scanner saga wraps up, Simon said the Whistler Health Care Foundation has been busy purchasing other equipment for Whistler's Health Care Centre. These items include cardiac monitors, a video-assisted laryngoscope, and other monitoring equipment totalling $60,000, said Simon. Most of the money has come from the Indulge fundraisers held in the fall of 2007 and 2008.

The foundation's scope has recently expanded beyond medical equipment, said Simon.

"We have a new five-year strategic plan, and within that plan we wanted to broaden our mandate to not just simply equipment at the Whistler Health Care Centre," said Simon. "If there is another need for health care funds, other than operating funds, we would look at that."

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