Soon-to-be-parents living in British Columbia's Elk Valley may soon be able to get an ultrasound in Fernie instead of having to travel elsewhere in the East Kootenay, or even Alberta.
Since August, the East Kootenay Foundation For Health has raised nearly $300,000 to buy an ultrasound machine at the Elk Valley Hospital in Fernie, which could be a big relief for expectant mothers who would otherwise have to undertake long journeys in winter.
"As everyone in the region knows, the weather forecasts are largely inaccurate and the road conditions can go from bad to worse really quickly," said Fernie Coun. Morgan Pulsifer, whose first child is due later this month.
The Elk Valley is one of the fastest growing regions in the East Kootenay, but young families there like the Pulsifers have to drive more than 100 kilometres to Cranbrook or hundreds of kilometres to Alberta to receive prenatal assessments.
Ultrasounds are also used to diagnose other conditions, like heart, gallbladder and thyroid problems.
Pulsifer said he and his partner Lauren are fortunate enough to have a reliable vehicle and stable jobs so they can take time off to travel for medical examinations, but he realizes not every new parent in the Elk Valley has the same privilege.
"It just continues to demonstrate across the entirety of rural B.C. that barriers of access to medical services [are] disproportionately affecting individuals and households of lower socioeconomic standing," Pulsifer told Brady Strachan, guest host of CBC's Daybreak South.
Pulsifer said $265,000 has been raised so far for the ultrasound equipment at the Fernie hospital. Once installed, the equipment could save new parents in Sparwood and Elkford — two other major towns in the Elk Valley — hours of driving.
The Pulsifers have planned to have their child born in Cranbrook.