Thursday, 27 June 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Update on the Mercury Bay x-ray and ultrasound machines

The Mercury Bay Community Radiology and Health Trust was set up in 2014 to provide x-ray services to the people of Mercury Bay. Having an x-ray machine in Whitianga means that many local residents don’t have to make the long return trip to Thames to have x-rays taken. In November 2015, an ultrasound machine was acquired and the trust started to provide ultrasound scans as well.

The board of the trust met a few weeks ago to consider the trust’s financial performance.

The x-ray services are running well. The x-ray machine is making a sufficient profit to enable reserves to be accumulated to replace the x-ray equipment as and when it becomes necessary in the medium term. The ultrasound machine, on the other hand, is running at a loss. “We try to keep any additional patient charges for ultrasound scans to a minimum, but the projected loss over the next year is significant,” says Edwin Linehan, the chairman of the trust.

There are several factors involved in the financial performance of the ultrasound machine, most of which are outside the board’s control. “Our sole Whitianga-based sonographer is on parental leave and the Hamilton-based sonographers who work over the weekends are under stress and cannot get to Whitianga that often,” says Edwin. “Consequently, the number of appointments we can offer is reduced.

“The Waikato District Health Board has severely reduced their referrals to us, only currently approving urgent cases. Like all DHBs in New Zealand, the Waikato DHB is under financial stress and must save money wherever they can.

“Antenatal ultrasound scans are funded by the Ministry of Health. Unfortunately, the amount they pay, together with the small charge we levy per patient, is below our ‘breakeven’ point. We are reluctant to increase any patient charges. Antenatal ultrasounds make up around half of all our referrals. The Ministry of Health rate is set nationally and is unlikely to be increased.”

The trust cannot to continue provide ultrasound scans at a loss as this would jeopardise the financial stability of the x-ray machine as well. Unless the factors contributing to the loss change, the board will have to consider ceasing the provision of ultrasound scans. “We are doing what we can to ensure that we can continue to operate our ultrasound machine,” says Edwin. “We are looking for sonographers and are in discussions with the Waikato DHB.”

On a brighter note, the trust has recently appointed radiographer Cay Thompson to fill the gap caused by the maternity leave of the trust’s permanently employed radiographer, Rebekah Tansy. Cay has a wealth of experience, including in Harley Street in London. She has recently been working in Kaitaia and before that in North Queensland. “I came to Whitianga for the first time 10 years ago for the Scallop Festival,” says Cay. “I always thought that it would wonderful to work in Whitianga and when I saw Rebekah’s job being advertised for the time she is on maternity leave, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Edwin says that the board of the trust is thankful to Rebekah for her service to date. “We wish Rebekah well with the birth of her child and look forward to working with her in the future,” he says.

Pictured: Cay Thompson, the new radiographer of the Mercury Bay Community Radiology and Health Trust, jumped at the opportunity to work in Whitianga.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.