“Space-Age Equipment” In 1969 Trauma Unit Will Save 20 More Lives A Year

From The Columbian, June 25, 1969
Photos by Basil King

Gain: 20 Lives a Year

More than three years of fund-raising, planning and construction to create a sophisticated trauma unit at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster have ended with the installation and activation of the space-age equipment pictured on this page.

With head nurse Penny Saunders as “patient” assistant technical supervisor Keith Putland is positioning an X-ray viewer machine designed for tracing damage to blood vessels and veins. Doctors watch in view screens like the one at right, and can record on video tape or film. Brain damage is charted on units which are positioned beside and beneath the patient’s head, while harmless dye is injected into the blood stream. The machine Putland is holding revolved a quarter circle for vertical, horizontal or diagonal views.

Movie films from machine above are processed in this developer being operated by student technician Barbara Berry, left and technician Marnie Whittaker.

Sparked by a $100,000 donation from the P.A. Woodward Foundation, pushed along with an equal amount in business donations and topped off with a matching government grant, the $400,000 treatment unit is designed to give immediate diagnosis and speedy treatment to the hundreds of patients brought to Royal Columbian each year from the scene of bloody industrial and highway accidents.

Head nurse Saunders, in her own working realm, is demonstrating on a dummy some of the life-saving procedures available to her. Dummy has a head injury. Tracheotomy tube is used to assist breathing, heart monitor is strapped to the chest. A stomach wound is bandaged. Bed is equipped with traction bars for fractured bones, electronic heart monitor on wall, built-in oxygen and vacuum outlets and intense lighting. Behind nurse Saunders is glass-walled isolation room which can be kept sterile and the air maintained at positive or negative pressure.

Staff doctors who pressed the campaign to raise funds and find space in the crowded old hospital estimate that the new facilities will enable them to save 20 lives each year which would otherwise be lost because of serious injuries.

The unit has two parts – a four-bed intense care ward with every available nursing aid built in for instant use – including electronic heart and blood monitoring and a sterile-air room for burn victims, and a special procedure area with some of the world’s most advanced X-ray devices for observing and recording pictures of damaged internal functions.

Rotating X-ray machine being operated by technical supervisor Harry Oancia with assistant head nurse Pat McGuire as “patient” prints half-circle view of head bones in one flat film, and was developed by a dentist. One three-second exposure gives better picture than many films by other techniques. Semi-circular film holder at Oancia’s left hand swings in front of patient’s face when machine is operated.

These pictures were taken during a “dry run” of the trauma unit on Monday. When it is declared operational next week, following opening ceremonies today, the patient ward will be staffed on three shifts by 19 nurses and a supervisor who will also look after the hospital’s other five-bed intense care ward, and the X-ray rooms may have a dozen or more doctors, nurses and technicians working to pinpoint injuries in time to treat them while there is still time.

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