Nova Scotians' access to bone density testing took a great leap forward last week, with the provincial government’s announcement that three new machines will be added to the province’s health care system.
The province now boasts eight bone mineral density (BMD) machines, a sharp increase from the two that existed back in 2001 - the year Osteoporosis Canada's Nova Scotia Chapter officially came into existence. Since then, the Chapter has advocated tirelessly to enhance the province's capacity for screening.
"While we are very pleased with the announcement of three new densitometry machines for the province, we recognize that areas of Nova Scotia are still under serviced for diagnosing osteoporosis," says Elaine Brooks, Chair, Nova Scotia Chapter. She added that the Chapter's Advocacy Committee has consistently requested seven additional machines so that community members from each of the Health Districts would have convenient access.
"The three announced machines will assist with wait times, particularly in the Capital Health district, where the wait time has been over 400 days," comments Elaine. "We look forward to working with the government in continuing to fulfil the requirement for four additional BMD machines."
The long-awaited machines, which will be located at the IWK Health Centre, Dartmouth General Hospital and Valley Regional Hospital, were purchased using donated funds. However, the government has pledged to undertake the yearly yearly operating costs.
"Osteoporosis affects nearly 60,000 Nova Scotians who are at much greater risk of fractures as a result of the disease," said Health Minister Chris d'Entremont. "That's why we continue to provide the necessary tools to help health professionals prevent and treat the disease. The addition of this equipment will increase the testing capacity in the province by 22,000 tests per year."
It is estimated that osteoporosis affects more than 43,000 women and 15,000 men over the age of 50 in Nova Scotia. About 20 per cent of people who have a hip fracture die from complications within the first year. Many others require care in nursing homes.
Though Osteoporosis Canada’s Nova Scotia Chapter remains optimistic about the future of osteoporosis screening in the province, they are not about to give up. "The announcement is an excellent start in addressing the osteoporosis diagnosis needs of the people of Nova Scotia. However, we will not decrease our advocacy efforts until our goal of twelve machines in the province is realized," says Elaine.