Tahlequah Daily Press

August 14, 2013

New equipment cuts backlog

n Cherokee Nation Hastings Hospital recently received a number of new scopes for cancer screenings.

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — tsnell@tahlequahdailypress.com

As the push for preventive health care continues, more and more people are seeking services.

As such, hospitals and clinics with aging equipment may be experiencing backlogs of patients for screenings, including colonoscopies.

Cherokee Nation Hastings Hospital found itself in such a predicament, and recently replaced screening equipment to ease pressure placed on the staff.

According to Chief of Surgery Dr. Hope Baluh, CN Hastings Hospital has received 10 colonoscopes, four upper gastrointestinal endoscopes and a couple of flexible laporoscopes.

“And this is state-of-the-art equipment,” said Baluh. “We are able to see things at a much smaller level, and detect even smaller lesions. It’s a pleasure to use.”

Brian Hail, CN Hastings Hospital CEO, said the equipment arrived at the end of July, but choosing the items took several months.

“We’ve been working on it for several moths before we chose a vendor,” said Hail. “We thought it was important to let providers put their hands on the equipment and get something that suited their needs.”

Hail said Hastings’ strategic goal is to reduce the backlog of patients on the screening colonoscopy waiting list.

“We started with 1,800 people on the waiting list,” said Hail. “It’s down to fewer than 50 now. Dr. Baluh and the staff have done a remarkable job getting those patients taken care of.”

Baluh said the team has been working to reduce the backlog for quite some time, which caused a need for new equipment.

“We had overused the equipment we used to have,” said Baluh. “It would break down, creating even more limitations on the time we had to screen patients.”

Like Baluh, Hail said the new machines give providers a jump-start in cancer prevention and treatment.

“What we have now are state-of-the-art, high-definition scopes that allow surgeons to identify even smaller precancerous lesions,” said Hail. “And we have enough scopes now that we can move patients through more quickly.”

Both Hail and Baluh stressed the importance of screening for colon cancer.

“The recommendation is that people over 40 have colonoscopies routinely,” said Hail. “We use these to detect colon cancer or its development. Colon cancer grows so slowly that if it can be detected early, it can be treated. There’s really no need for people to die from colon cancer these days.”

Baluh said screenings are invaluable, and she hopes everyone will take part in the preventive step toward health.

“The new equipment doesn’t necessarily make it more comfortable, but we can make it comfortable for the patients,” said Baluh. “I just don’t want patients to avoid the procedure.”

The equipment purchase was funded by the Cherokee Nation.

“It’s an investment from the Cherokee Nation in people’s health,” said Hail.

Baluh is appreciative of the help, especially considering budget constraints.

“We are very grateful to have received the new scopes, especially with the budget troubles caused by sequestration.”

Those seeking a screening through Hastings need to get a referral from their primary care providers, according to Hail.