Retinal scanner ‘exciting new addition’ to Bella Bella clinic and hospital
The Central Coast community of Bella Bella now has access to diagnostic eye care services at their local health care clinic thanks to a donation partnership between the Heiltsuk Health Centre Society (HHCS), Mr. and Mrs. P.A. Woodward’s Foundation, and Axel and Dawn Rehkatsch (the latter two of whom donated via the LGH Foundation).
Together, the donors provided the funding for a state-of-the art retinal camera that allows physicians to take a picture of the back of a client’s eye and send the image to a specialist in Vancouver for assessment in real time.
This is an innovative screening tool that allows clients/patients to remain in their home community for diagnostic retinal imaging and allows physicians to get the feedback and support from an ophthalmology specialist – all by virtual care and remote viewing. This program is supported remotely by the VCH Eye Care Centre and in the community by VCH Bella Bella Medical Clinic and the Heiltsuk Health Centre.
“This retinal camera is an exciting new addition for both the R.W. Large Memorial Hospital and Bella Bella Medical Clinic,” says Rhonda Orobko, Chronic Disease Nurse.
“All nearby communities will have access to an ophthalmologist with the click of a button for both diabetes screening and specialist consultation. This donation will definitely help improve patient care in our isolated communities.”
This is the second donation in partnership with the Heiltsuk Health Centre for the Woodward’s Foundation and Axel and Dawn Rehkatsch.
Kip Woodward, VCH board chair and president of the Woodward’s Foundation, and Axel Rehkatsch, former VCH board member, first visited Bella Bella when VCH took over governance of R.W. Large Memorial Hospital from the United Church about three years ago to learn more about the community, the hospital and to collaborate with the Heiltsuk First Nation.
“They have amazing doctors and staff up there who are so passionate – they can do heroic things with almost nothing,” says Kip. “During our first visit we had a discussion with local physicians to find out what they were truly missing and we also wanted to forge a strong relationship with the Heiltsuk First Nation and have VCH and the Heiltsuk work on projects together, especially in public health.”
The first partnership donation purchased an ear, nose and throat (ENT) device used by specialists who travel regularly to Bella Bella. The second is the retinal scanner.
“After the ENT device, we ‘said what can we do next,’ and through discussions with the Heiltsuk Health Centre Society and VCH, a retinal scanner was viewed as a priority because of the immediate difference it would make to improve patient care,” says Axel.