The Royal University Hospital Foundation (RUHF) held its 14th Donor Grand Rounds event on May 25, focusing on the medical laboratories at RUH.

“Grand Rounds have a long tradition within a hospital setting, and serve as an opportunity for doctors, residents and students to learn about a particular case or aspect of medicine,” noted Arla Gustafson, CEO of RUHF.

Donor Grand Rounds is an opportunity for RUHF to give donors and partners a glimpse into the specialized programs that they support, as well as innovations in patient care, education, technology and research at Royal University Hospital.

Over 60 donors and friends of the Foundation attended the latest Grand Rounds to learn about a department that is typically not in the public’s view. Donning gowns, guests were taken behind the scenes to have a look at the “lifeblood” of the healthcare system: Laboratory Medicine.

Guests were taken through several areas of the laboratory.

Guests were taken through several areas of the laboratory.

The importance of a well-equipped, efficient lab with up-to-date technology cannot be understated: up to 80 per cent of the medical decisions made by doctors are based on information from the laboratory. RUHF has committed to raise $2 million for Laboratory equipment through their $20 Million Campaign for Emergency, Critical Care and Trauma at Royal University Hospital (RUH).

This year’s Grand Rounds, hosted by Foundation Board vice chair Don Neufeld, began with Dr. Fergall Magee, head of Laboratory Medicine, and Judy Archer, Director of Laboratory Medicine, introducing their team of physicians, technologists and support staff.

Using a fictional patient named Jake, who presented himself in the Emergency Department, Dr. Oksana Prokopchuk-Gauk took the audience through the process of how samples taken from patients are tested in various areas of the laboratory and result in a diagnosis by the medical team.

Dr. Prokopchuk-Gauk was the recipient of a donor-supported $15,000 Fellowship in Transfusion Medicine from the RUH Foundation in 2015.

Guests were then taken through several areas of the laboratory.

The first stop was the Microbiology lab, where over 1,400 samples are tested every day using donor-funded automated equipment. With a price tag of $500,000, one piece of this equipment can process multiple samples at the same time, allowing for efficient and safe preparation for testing.  Another piece of advanced equipment at a cost of $350,000 in this area, provides accurate and fast results that are used to identify organisms, ensuring that patients are treated properly by prescribing the right antibiotic.

RUH is a leading lab in Canada that uses this technology.

“With donor support, Laboratory Medicine hope to acquire new technology for $100,000 that can screen urine samples for bacteria in seconds,” said Gustafson.

This time-saving process can have a positive impact on antibiotics prescribing by identifying patients that do not require antibiotics much sooner.

Next, the groups toured the Transfusion Medicine section of the lab. Automated equipment is now being used to identify blood types – something that was done manually for years. Upgrading of our current equipment will ensure that this service is maintained without risk of equipment failure due to usage and age.

The Hematology, Molecular and Cytogenetics labs were highlighted next on the tour.  The Cytogenetics lab at RUH is the only one of its kind in Saskatchewan. The staff in this lab examine chromosomes to help identify conditions like leukemia and Down Syndrome. The Hematology and Molecular labs also provide critical information to physicians to assist in diagnosis and treatment decisions. These areas rely on highly automated equipment and highly trained staff to deliver the service.

Grand Round visitors also got an up-close look at the pneumatic tube system at RUH. This system is used 1,000 times a day, delivering samples both to and from the lab. With STAT lab testing required within minutes of patient collection, the pneumatic tube system is a vital part of the process.  The current system has increased downtime and struggles with the volume of work with delays in excess of 10 minutes.  Upgrade and expansion of this system are required to meet the needs today as well as to prepare for the link to the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.

The final area of the tour was the Chemistry lab, where samples are tested and analyzed for diagnosis using equipment purchased seven years ago, partially funded by donors. This giant robot-like equipment prepares and tests samples in 30 to 35 minutes.  Many tests are required in STAT situations and others are used to monitor chronic disease or support prevention strategies to support healthy lifestyles.

Because of the distance, the group was not able to tour the Pathology laboratory.

Guests returned to the East Lecture Theatre for a summary of the process that samples from patients like Jake undergo every day.

Guests at RUHF Donor Grand Rounds in the East Lecture Theatre.

Guests at RUHF Donor Grand Rounds in the East Lecture Theatre.

Donors and frontline staff of Laboratory Medicine were thanked by a grateful patient, Gordon Wiwchar, who shared his experience at RUH and thanked his entire medical team, including the “unseen heroes” at RUH.

The reaction of guests to the Grand Rounds experience was extremely positive.

“It was wonderful to see the technology,” said one attendee.

“I will never take for granted that ‘poke in the arm’ again,” said another.

Others called Grand Rounds “an excellent educational program,” and “a memorable experience… (it) was so very interesting to hear about all of the expertise here.”

A Registered Nurse from RUH told the Foundation she appreciated the opportunity to see how another department’s work directly affects her patients. The tour improved her understanding of and appreciation for all members of the healthcare team.

“We thank all our donors, guests and the lab medicine team, whose dedication, skill and compassion are inspiring, for making this evening possible,” said Gustafson.