Reflections on a Half Century in Healthcare

Change is inevitable, and there has been a lot of change since 1967 - the year when I first moved to Barrie.

Back then, I was one of two radiologists serving Barrie residents as well as those residents living in the outlying communities. At the time, we had two X-ray machines in Barrie, and a colleague and I also traveled throughout the region to provide X-ray services in Midland, Penetanguishene and Collingwood.  Fast forward to today, and Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre has MANY radiologists, using a wide array of state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment to serve more than 450,000 residents of Barrie, Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka. 

Throughout the years that I worked there and in the years since, RVH has continually expanded to meet the growing needs of our diverse region. And, as much as the health centre has always been there for the community...the community has also been there for RVH. All of the equipment used today depends upon generous friends in the community. Friends like you! In fact, RVH was originally built and equipped 120 years ago entirely through community support, with great leadership from the RVH Auxiliary which has consistently been a key to the success of RVH. 

The new Siemens Somatom FLASH CT Scanner is one of the fastest, most technologically advanced CT Scanners available on the market today. It completes one rotation in just 0.28 seconds, and produces 126 image slices. To show how advanced the technology has become, the first CT scanner could only produce 1 image slice in 4 minutes! This means that this CT Scanner will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a scan – freeing up time to serve more patients in a day. And, it means the complete scan is so fast that it exposes patients to much less radiation and is also much more comfortable for patients who have pain or discomfort as they need to remain still for a much shorter period of time. 

You may not know that on average almost 100 CT scans are performed each and every day at RVH. In fact, CT services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long! 

You’re likely already aware that the government doesn’t provide funding for new medical equipment and only funds a portion of upgrades and renovations to hospitals. That means we are truly dependent on the generosity of our community, and the purchase of this new scanner was 100 per cent funded by our generous donors!

When I look back over the last fifty years of my career, it’s sometimes hard to believe how MUCH medical technology has changed. As I noted previously, when I first started working in Barrie, we only used x-ray technology. Today, thanks to past support, RVH has state-of-the-art MRI, digital mammography with 3D tomosynthesis, nuclear medicine cameras with advanced cardiac imaging, ultrasound, CT technology, interventional radiology suites as well as three mobile x-ray units!

Throughout all this change and growth, what has remained unchanged is RVH’s commitment to patients and the community. That hometown, local, community feeling is still here. All that’s changed is an increased ability to provide top-notch, high quality, complex care to the fast growing number of people living in our region.

Isn’t that what we all want? If you’re like me, you want to know that you can get the very best health care, right here close to home. You don’t want to travel to a different region for healthcare if you don’t have to, and at RVH -  I can assure you they’re always doing their best to provide you, your loved ones and neighbours with the care you need, right here, close to home. 

Personally, I’ve always prided myself on building relationships with my patients. That’s why I became a doctor in the first place: to help people. To make a difference in people's lives.

It can sometimes be tough to do that as a radiologist. You see so many patients in a day. If I had to guess, I’d estimate that I saw at least 100,000 patients during my time as a radiologist at RVH. But I still tried my best to develop those relationships and to give my patients, and their other doctors, the answers they needed.

For instance, during my last 10 years or so, my practice focused on ultrasound and mammography. I enjoyed the closer patient contact of this practice and knowing I was helping provide the crucial information that these women needed at such a stressful time. I still run into women on the street or in the checkout line who say, “I remember when I had my mammogram and you were so kind to me”. Those interactions mean so much to me. It feels good knowing I made at least a little bit of a difference in their lives. 

But we all have the ability to make a difference don't we? With your generosity, YOU are also making a difference in people’s lives each and every day at RVH.  

For instance, your support today will help RVH introduce a regional Child and Youth Mental Health program with inpatient beds and a transitional day program for kids with a mental health diagnosis. I feel incredibly passionate about this, as I spent a good portion of my time volunteering to improve healthcare for children and families.To me, there’s no investment that pays off more than investing in children who have challenges. Because when you help a child or youth early on, you can help change the very course of their life! You can help them live fuller and more productive lives. Now, what could be better than that? 

Your support today will also help RVH improve cancer and cardiac care for patients throughout this region, as well as remain up-to-date with the latest diagnostic equipment and technology.

As I said at the beginning of this letter, when you’ve lived as long as I have, you see a lot of change. This community has grown exponentially, both in terms of population and diversity. And RVH, now celebrating its 120th Anniversary, has continued to expand to meet this community’s changing healthcare needs.

You know that saying, the more things change the more they stay the same?

That’s true at RVH. Medical technology is continually changing and advancing at a rapid rate – and RVH is keeping up with those advances. But, RVH has also remained true to its roots, offering the same great care we did back when I first came to Barrie fifty years ago and the same great care 120 years ago. Just as you’ve been here for RVH, know that RVH will be here for you and your loved ones whenever you may need it.

As I noted, 2017 represents RVH's 120th anniversary! I hope you will join me in making a special gift to support our health centre this year.  

I personally chose to become a monthly donor because I care deeply about supporting the best possible healthcare at RVH. I want to optimize my contributions and make the biggest impact I can. The easiest and most effective way to make my contribution is through monthly giving. Plus, I know RVH depends on the ongoing support of monthly donors to plan and budget for new equipment, programs and upgrades, as well as respond to urgent needs.

However you choose to give, I hope you’ll stay with RVH as it continues to care for this region’s healthcare needs. Thank you!

Yours for excellence in community healthcare,

Dr. Al Scarth

RVH Radiologist

(Retired after 40 years of practice)


Retired Radiologist Dr. Al Scarth reflects in RVH's new CT Suite on how far technology has come since he first began his career in healthcare five decades ago. He retired ten years ago but, at the age of 90, is still extremely involved with the health centre! 

Three generations of Radiology at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre. Dr. Scarth is welcomed back to RVH by Dr. George Lougheed (left) and Dr. Chris Guest (right). 

The new state-of-the-art Siemens Somatom FLASH CT Scanner was 100% funded by our generous donor community, and is one of the reasons that RVH is able to provide about 100 CT scans each and every day at our health centre!