Leslie Castner, registered nurse and clinical nurse leader at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, left, and Teneane Gooch, registered nurse, pose for a selfie with an endoscope at NRGH’s endoscopy department where about 20 patients receive procedures daily, but 50 new referrals are received each day. Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation has started a campaign to raise $1.5 million to build a new procedural suite and cut patient wait times for procedures. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Hospital foundation raising $1.5 million to cut colonoscopy wait times

Fundraiser to expand NRGH endoscopy department and reduce one-year wait list for 3,500 patients

Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation has launched a fundraising campaign to speed up service for more than 3,500 patients currently waiting up to 12 months for a colonoscopy.

The campaign will raise $1.5 million to add a new procedure suite to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s endoscopy department.

“It’s endoscopy, so it does the three types of scopes, but the one that’s most common – 80 per cent of the actual scopes – are going to be colonoscopies,” said Janice Perrino, hospital foundation CEO. “It’s a major procedure when you consider things like colon cancer, although diverticulitis and Crohn’s disease are some of the major illnesses.”

The backlog is due to a lack of rooms to conduct endoscopy procedures. Adding a procedural suite could raise the number of procedures conducted annually by about 35 per cent.

“The government has made us very aware that we are not meeting the numbers in Nanaimo the way we should be and they’ve been very helpful to say if we could just get the space they’ll help us with the operational dollars,” Perrino said.

Statistically, she said, one to two per cent of the 3,500 people on the wait list will have colon cancer.

The total cost of building a new procedural suite will be paid for with the donations raised by the community and the province will cover operational costs, which will include adding more staff to handle the extra work load.

READ ALSO: Hospital foundation launches $1.8-million campaign for cardiac care

NRGH’s endoscopy department receives patients who are referred from endoscopist’s offices and through a provincial screening program.

“Just through the provincial screening there’s probably about 50 bookings a day that come in,” said Dr. Nathan Schneidereit, general surgeon and colorectal surgeon at NRGH. “We can only do right now about 20, so we’re hoping with the increased capacity we’ll be able to do at least 30 or more per day, which will definitely be helpful in trying to get through the lists.”

Schneidereit said some patients drive to Courtenay, Victoria and elsewhere to get procedures done more quickly, but that inconveniences patients and does little to alleviate the wait list in Nanaimo.

“We have physicians who can do it here. We just don’t have enough physical space,” he said.

Schneidereit said the added space will also allow NRGH to hire gastroenterologists.

“Which will be great for the community,” he said. “Right now people have to go to Victoria or Vancouver for gastroenterology … they do more of the medical management of inflammatory bowel disease. We do the medical management, as well, but not as extensive. They have access to medications that we can’t prescribe and they don’t do the surgical side of things like we do.”

Construction of the new procedural suite is set to start in July.

To learn more or make a donation, visit the foundation website at https://nanaimohospitalfoundation.com/.



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