Our story - Mercury Bay X-Ray
By Graeme Matthews
During 2014, Whitianga Lions, supported by The Informer and the community, spearheaded a fund raising campaign for an X-Ray facility in Whitianga. The funds raised were $248,753 and was one of the biggest fund raising efforts seen in the history of Mercury Bay.
As part of the project, a Charitable Trust was established in March 2014 to provide local radiology services and avoid people having to travel to either Thames or Morrinsville. Premises were acquired at 18 Coghill Street, with improvements undertaken to convert the area into a fully compliant radiology centre. With the installation of the X-Ray unit and the employment of qualified staff, the centre became fully operational in September 2014.
In December 2018, the X-Ray unit was upgraded to digital, which resulted in higher quality images. The Trust purchased an Ultrasound system which became fully operational in November 2015. This system was replaced in January 2021. The new system has advanced capabilities and higher quality images. The Trust provides X-Ray and Ultrasound services to the community on behalf of Health NZ, and the Accident Compensation Commission, and it also offers maternity Ultrasounds on behalf of Health NZ.
The Trust is committed to providing radiology services for the benefit of the community, and since the population of the Mercury Bay area has grown by some 36% since 2014, it has increased its opening hours to ensure greater availability of services. For X-Rays we currently offer services to 16,960 people and for Ultrasound 21,890 people living in both the eastern and northern Coromandel. Since September 2014, the Trust has completed X-Rays for 14,455 people and for Ultrasound we have completed examinations for 4,302 people.
At present, the Trust is providing X-Ray services 4 days a week and Ultrasound services 3 days a week. Professional staff are the key to offering radiology services, and from mid-November there will be two part-time radiographers for X-Ray, and one part-time Sonographer for Ultrasound, so given the demand, the Trust would be in a position to consider X-Ray services for 5 days week.
Any increase in the number the days for Ultrasound would depend on attracting a second part-time Sonographer, but they are hard to attract, as New Zealand has a shortage of Sonographers.
At Board Level, Edwin Linehan, the Chairperson of the Trust since July 2016 retired at the October 2022 meeting, and Richard Vetter was elected Chairperson. Edwin chaired the Trust during a period of expanding services, and the restructuring of radiology services on a business basis. With a business approach, the Trust has successfully managed challenges, from low revenue, rising costs, system upgrades and Covid-19.
In summary, a business approach has ensured a firm basis for financial and operational sustainability and for providing local radiology services for the benefit of the community.