Scoping out care closer to home

March 7, 2014

Whitecourt endoscopy patients enjoy convenience

Story by Kerri Robins; Photo by Sharon Larson

Dr. Colm MacCarthy and Alyssa DicknerBoth staff and patients are cheering the 10th anniversary of the Whitecourt Healthcare Centre getting a full suite of endoscopic equipment.

Over the past decade, it’s made a world of difference to area residents who prefer to be treated close to home, rather than make the 180-km trip to Edmonton for procedures.

When Elaine Gunderson’s husband, Dale, first underwent an endoscopy back in 1982, the Whitecourt couple had to travel to the city.

“The bowel-cleansing procedure is intense and made the travelling unpredictable,” says Gunderson.

“By the time we travelled to Edmonton, had the procedure and travelled back, it was about a seven-hour round trip. So when Dale was able to have a second procedure here in Whitecourt, it was a welcome change to stay at home. The whole procedure took under two hours.”

The Whitecourt Healthcare Centre performs about 500 endoscopic procedures annually. Patients come from not only Whitecourt, but also from the surrounding communities of Mayerthorpe, Swan Hills, Peers, Sangudo, Fox Creek and Stony Plain.

Yvette Dick, North Zone director at the centre, agrees that staying home is a huge benefit to people.

“It can be a real hardship on many patients having to travel so far,” says Dick.

“Not only can travel be expensive, but patients have to leave their families and support system at a time when they may really need it.”

Endoscopy is a diagnostic procedure for gastrointestinal disorders that allows doctors to look at the interior lining of the small and large intestines.

During a typical endoscopic procedure, the doctor inserts flexible tubing with a small camera attached, either through the patient’s mouth or rectum, which displays an image onscreen.

Patients may receive light sedation for comfort, but the procedure isn’t painful.

The equipment allows doctors to diagnose a number of conditions, including colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcers as well as general discomfort concerns such as heartburn. In addition, pre-cancerous polyps – abnormal growths found on the lining of the large intestine – can be removed during the procedure.

Dr. Colm MacCarthy, a family practitioner with a special interest in endoscopy, says he’s pleased to have such state-of-the-art equipment at his disposal.

“It’s been such a pleasure using equipment that helps us provide top-level care to our patients,” says MacCarthy.

Funded by the Friends of Whitecourt Society in the amount of $250,000, the health care centre has been using this specialized equipment since its purchase in the spring of 2004.

Gunderson, President of the Friends of Whitecourt Society, is proud of her community and its support.

“We see the ‘circle of life’ here where people are helping people. In some cases, those who help us purchase needed equipment may also end up having to use it one day,” she says.

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