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Urologist blasts delays on VIHA handling of bladder tests

Oct 24 2012

The Vancouver Island Health Authority is dragged their feet figuring out how to handle thousands of annual bladder tests for cancer and other urinary tract ailments, a Victoria urologist says.

Changes to B.C. sterilization regulations mean that urologists are no longer able to perform cysto-scopies in their offices, forcing patients to wait or travel to the mainland to the kind of hospital outpatient urology clinics that should be available on the Island, Dr. Peter Pom-merville said.

Until the changes - introduced by the Ministry of Health and the B.C. College of Physicians in keeping with national standards for medical devices - came into effect three weeks ago, urologists on the Island performed 7,600 cystoscopies a year in their offices.

The new standards are meant to reduce the risk of infection from improperly sterilized cystoscopes, which are used in tests to follow up on bladder cancer or treat and diagnose other urinary-tract ailments.

VIHA knew the office visits were going to stop due to the high cost of renovations needed for urologists' facilities to meet the new regulations, Pom-merville said. He estimates that changes to his office would cost at least $80,000.

"We told them it was coming at least a year ago," he said.

Urologists have been asking for a hospital outpatient clinic - like those available to specialists in eye care, internal medicine and orthopedic surgery - for five years, Pommerville said.

"We're fed up with having carried the ball and given them notice and now they're dragging their feet on getting it set up and

working," said Pommerville, who is on a medical leave but has practised in Victoria since the 1980s.

"It's about time that the patients here on Vancouver Island had the ability to go to a urology clinic within the hospital and have the same standard of care that they're getting in the rest of the province and the rest of the country."

VIHA considers urology out-patient clinics a pressing need and has been working with urologists for months looking at options, said spokeswoman Suzanne Germain.

"They're going to get it now - we're working on it," said Germain, adding she estimated clinics would be running within a few months.

"We are moving as quickly as we can to get it done but we are going to do it properly," she said, adding that VIHA must look at the types and costs of equipment, space to be secured, renovations to be done and booking systems.

"It's kind of like when you need a new roof on your house - you've got to find the money to do that. ... We need to re-prioritize the funding that we have available to make sure this happens."

There are already 4,400 cystoscopies done in Island operating rooms each year, and adding more would create further waits for other procedures, Germain said.

A long waiting list to get patients into hospitals prompted Pommerville to start doing office cysto-scopes in 1989.

At one point, VIHA proposed that urologists bring their scopes and nurses to a facility where the health authority could take care of higher levels of sterilization, Pommerville said.

"It's not acceptable. We want the same situation you have in other cities across the province and especially across Canada." kdedyna@timescolonist.com