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'This represents empowerment': Northern Sask. communities get portable X-ray machines

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Some Indigenous communities have received portable X-ray machines, breaking barriers for healthcare in Northern Saskatchewan.

The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) will set up the machines in three of its First Nations.

“This represents autonomy. This represents independence. This represents empowerment for First Nations to take control of their own health care,” Genevieve St. Denis, Preventative Health Manager with PBCN, told CTV News.

The machines will be placed in Deschambault Lake, Pelican Narrows, and Southend to help manage tuberculosis (TB).

“Right now our communities are in an outbreak status of TB, so we have a number of patients and clients who require chest X-rays,” St. Denis said.

Within minutes the X-ray images are sent to Synthesis Health in Calgary, where they'll go through an algorithm to determine if there are any abnormalities. Radiologists and physicians then review the image and return the diagnosis the same day.

"We built a solution specifically to address all communications needs to be really efficient, and they need to run over low bandwidth,” Dr. Deepak Kaura, Chief Medical Officer with Synthesis Health told CTV News.

“Our goal really is to take this and partner with many Indigenous communities around Canada, and even beyond Canada, to be able to provide this level of access,” Kaura said.

St. Denis believes it would eliminate obstacles for patients, who otherwise would have had to leave their community and go to a larger centre.

"We’re able to provide that service to the patient in their home community in a timely manner," she told CTV News.

The PBCN and the College of Registered Nurses of Saskatchewan recently came to an agreement, which allows the on-site nurses to use these machines.

St. Denis said it alleviates the process of bringing-in physicians and X-ray technicians.

“We can have a registered nurse who’s working on-site in the community with the TB patients. That nurse knows the patients, she can establish a schedule, and she can consult with a physician by phone,” she said.

St. Denis said the next steps are working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to connect Synthesis Health to its’ communication system. The goal is to have the machines operating by the end of the summer. 

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