The Coast News Group

Ranch residents’ donation saving lives

RANCHO SANTA FE — An anonymous donation by a Rancho Santa Fe couple to the nonprofit North County Health Services has the potential of saving hundreds of lives each year.
The $125,000 gift was designated by the donor for a new diagnostic ultrasound program including equipment and the initial cost of technicians.
Fund development director Dana L. Withall said she was approached about the contribution last spring after an article about NCHS was published in The Coast News and its sister publication, Rancho Santa Fe News.
“We met with the donors right away,” she said. “The program is now up and running on Saturdays in our Oceanside Health Center.”
Diagnostic ultrasound (sonography) is a noninvasive diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures within the body.
The most popular application is cancer detection. Like an MRI and CTI, it is used to perform abdominal and thyroid exams. In addition, it is used for breast and pelvic examinations in women, and testicular exams in men.
The technology is used to monitor blood flow in the carotid artery and the vascular system, making it possible for doctors to look at the functional aspects of organs.
“It also enables physicians to look at muscular-skeletal and arthritic conditions and see how they are progressing and responding to treatment,” added the donor.
The diagnostic ultrasound system offers offsite, secure data storage and immediate remote access for physicians in their office or on their home computer.
In making the gift to the NCHS, the donor stipulated that he also wanted the service to be available to patients of the Vista Community Clinic and Neighborhood Health in Escondido.
“The great thing about this program is that we provide diagnostic ultrasound services to patients who are uninsured or underinsured and may have been waiting for quite some time for this procedure,” Withall said.
Late detection translates into higher costs for treatment, and decreased chances for a positive outcome.
The donor is an electrical engineer with a background in nuclear medicine who has been involved in high-tech health care for many years. He is founder and CEO of three healthcare companies.
After analyzing costs of new healthcare reform legislation, the donor said his goal is to eventually expand the NCHS program nationally.
“I concluded that the great majority of the 32 million newly insured would need to obtain care from the growth of current and an increase in the number of federally qualified healthcare centers (FQHC) such as North County Health Services,” he said.
He added that these clinics are ideal because they are the most cost-effective providers of primary care, medical, dental, vision and mental health services. In addition the clinical staff is salaried without financial incentives. Finally, clinics such as NCHA put an emphasis on health education and prevention.
Currently the Diagnostic Ultrasound clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday serving 500 patients annually. Plans are under way to offer the clinic on weekdays, which would increase the number of patients served to 2,500 annually.
Eventually NCHS hopes to offer a training program in which their own medical assistants could become certified sonographers.
Tracy Francis is a certified sonographer who had been with the new Diagnostic Ultrasound program since it began in July.
“It is gratifying to scan patients who wouldn’t have the opportunity to receive care otherwise,” she said. “If you can catch something sooner than later, it’s always a plus for the patient.”
The Oceanside Health Center located at 605 Crouch St. near the intersection of Oceanside Blvd. For more information, call (760) 757-4566.