Dr. Ryan Margau, Chief of Medical Imaging, North York General

Re-imagining medical imaging during a dynamic time

As the Chief and Medical Director of North York General Hospital’s Department of Medical Imaging, Dr. Ryan Margau is responsible for a department that does imaging and procedures 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, his department was doing around 250,000 tests per year.

For many health care workers like myself, when I saw how devastating COVID-19 has been for countries like Italy with similar health care systems to ours, it really hit me. This pandemic has certainly changed how we work in the Department of Medical Imaging.

For example, we’ve had to do more triaging. This means we’re only imaging patients with the most urgent problems and are deferring appointments for those with less urgent issues.

We’ve also been screening patients, employing social distancing, spreading out appointments, doing more frequent room cleaning and training staff on proper personal protective equipment (PPE) use. In addition, we have dedicated rooms for patients, including an X-ray room in the emergency department and an ultrasound room.

Thanks to funding from the Foundation, we recently acquired a third CT scanner dedicated to the imaging of isolation patients, as well as portable X-ray and ultrasound machines. This portable equipment is helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, as it can be brought directly to our patients’ bedsides so they don’t have to move around the hospital and take the elevator.

As a general rule, we don’t use chest X-rays or CT scans to screen patients for COVID-19 — the best way to test for the virus involves using swabs. However, for the subset of sicker COVID-19-positive patients, chest imaging can help physicians pinpoint the lung complications associated with the illness.

Although we’ve adopted the guidelines for the safe imaging of COVID-19 patients that were developed by organizations like the Canadian Association of Radiology, the Canadian Association of Interventional Radiology and the American College of Radiology, the best source of information has been from our own hospital, namely the incident management, infection prevention and control, and infectious diseases teams. They’ve been excellent and have really been helping us get through this.

I also couldn’t be prouder and more grateful of my team in the Department of Medical Imaging. They’re resilient, highly dedicated to patient care and are doing their absolute best to keep our department open and functioning.

I can’t stress how important it is to express gratitude to our amazing frontline technologists — and our patients have been doing a great job of that so far. From day one of the pandemic, when the first patient showed up needing imaging, they were there. They’ve had to adapt to the changing environment, whether it’s using PPE, shifting their schedules or following all the new rules as they come out. They’re coming to work every single day, and it’s important for other people to stay home.

On behalf of the Department of Medical Imaging, thank you to the Foundation and our generous donors for enabling us to purchase the portable imaging equipment that has been critical in preventing the spread of COVID-19 throughout the hospital.