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Opening night gala of Ponoka Country Christmas Festival of Trees a hit

Local health care professionals explained need for new mobile digital X-ray machine

Bidding was lively at the packed opening night gala of Ponoka’s Country Christmas Festival of Trees at the Stagecoach Saloon on Nov. 30.

The festival was larger than ever, fully utilizing the newly constructed addition to the saloon — the Ponoka Stampede’s Showdown Dance Hall — for the catered meal and displaying the decorated trees up for auction, leaving more room for diners in the saloon.

The annual five-day festival is a fundraising event put on by the Ponoka and District Health Foundation. Each year, the raises funds for the greatest need at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre to improve patient care.

Proceeds from this year’s event will go to the purchase of a mobile, digital X-ray system for the hospital. These units run in the price range of about $160,000.

“I’ve always been amazed at the generosity of this community,” said board member and local physician Dr. Tarina Du Toit.

“Every day I walk into the hospital, I’m reminded about the generosity,” she said, listing some of the foundation’s past fundraising projects.

“With your support, we’ve been able to get equipment that enhances patient care significantly,” said Du Toit.

“This year’s item is no different; it’s going to make a big change. As a physician, being aware of the increase volume and complexity of patients that we’ve seen that we’ve seen at emergency … this new machine is going to help us to improve the safety and tally management for our patients.”

Chandra Schonken, who has been working at the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre for 17 years and is currently the lab and X-ray supervisor, explained more about the benefits of the new X-ray machine.

The new digital X-ray machine will be a Carestream DRX-Revolution Mobile X-ray System.

“This might not sound as exciting to you as it does to us, but I’d love to explain a little bit about the benefits of this machine,” said Schonken.

According to Schonken, they do an average of 30 X-ray exams a day in Ponoka, and about nine portable exams per week.

“This may not seem like a large number but, when caring for the patients who aren’t able to come down to the X-ray department for their exam, it can make a big difference in their care,” she said.

“Critically-ill patients, placing breathing tubes and intubation procedures, post fracture reduction as well as trauma patients, are just a few of the examples of the people we are hoping to help with this equipment.”

Some of the benefits of the technology of the new machine compared to the current one are the time it takes to get an image and the detail provided.

Currently, the receptor (X-ray film), is placed behind a patient, the image is exposed, then the board is removed, walked down to the X-ray department, and put it in a machine. The tech then waits for the image to come out, which can take up to 10 minutes per image.

The whole process will need to be repeated if more images are needed, she said.

Schonken explained placing the receptor behind the patient multiple times can be difficult and painful, depending on the patient’s condition, and it causes delays in their care.

With the mobile X-ray machine, the board would only need to be placed once and the image would show up “within seconds” of exposure, right at the bedside.

“This will allow the physician to have X-ray information almost instantly, without needing to leave the room.”

As soon as the image is taken, it would be uploaded to the provincial Connect Care system, accessible to any physician anywhere in Alberta.

Schonken said digital X-ray technology is also safer for patients and staff than the older system, as it uses 30 to 50 per cent less radiation than the hospital’s current technology.

“And the images are far superior. It gives us a lot more detail which can help the physicians aid in diagnosis, and therefore the treatment of the patient,” said Schonken.

“We’re very excited about the possibilities that this equipment will provide to the patients in our community.”

The County Christmas Festival of Trees continues until Sunday, Dec. 3. Tickets for some events will be available at the door.

For more information, or to bid on items in the silent auction, visit

READ MORE: Organizers gearing up to unveil this year’s Ponoka Festival of Trees

Emily Jaycox

About the Author: Emily Jaycox

I’m Emily Jaycox, the editor of Ponoka News and the Bashaw Star. I’ve lived in Ponoka since 2015 and have over seven years of experience working as a journalist in central Alberta communities.
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