About a year ago, Intelligent Hospital Systems received an export award presented by Peter Bjornson, Manitoba's minister of entrepreneurship training and trade.
At that event the Winnipeg company's CEO, Niels Erik Hansen, took the occasion to point out the right thing for the province to do to support growing local manufacturers would be to buy their products.
On Thursday at the Intelligent Hospital Systems (IHS) headquarters in a south Winnipeg industrial park Bjornson announced CancerCare Manitoba was purchasing the first IHS Robotic IV Automation (RIVA) machine in the province.
RIVA is considered to be the most comprehensive solution for automated preparation of IV medications (syringes and IV bags) for the general hospital, chemotherapy and pediatric markets in the global market today.
The CancerCare unit will be the 32nd one the company has installed and the third in Canada.
'This makes a huge difference for us when we invite potential customers in. We'll now have an operating system close to home to show people.'
The arrangement to acquire the technology -- at a purchase price of about $1.3 million with an additional $1.2 million worth of development costs for CancerCare -- was about a year in the works.
Dr. Dhali Dhaliwal, the CEO of CancerCare Manitoba, said chemotherapy drugs are strong and powerful and require extreme care in how they are handled and delivered.
"We have always taken extraordinary care to insure accuracy," Dhaliwal said. "This will take it to another level, a superhuman level, if you will."
Dhaliwal said CancerCare and IHS will collaborate on reviewing the efficiencies of the way the system is used and both he and Hansen said the close proximity between manufacturer and customer will be mutually beneficial.
Hansen said having a local customer is extremely important for his business.
"This makes a huge difference for us when we invite potential customers in," he said.
"We'll now have an operating system close to home to show people."
The units -- about a third of the size of a shipping container -- have a fully automated robotic arm operating in a sterile environment loaded with software that virtually guarantees error-free drug compounding.
Interest in the RIVA units has heightened in the past year after a meningitis outbreak in the U.S. was traced to contaminated IV bags produced by a Massachusetts firm that puts together IV bags for hospitals around the U.S.
And a recent scandal in Ontario and New Brunswick found that about 1,200 cancer patients in those two provinces received diluted chemotherapy drugs that were prepared by an outsource operation.
Using a RIVA system greatly reduces the chances of contamination or errors.
Dhaliwal said CancerCare prepares 60,000 chemo treatments per year for patients at Health Sciences Centre, St. Boniface General Hospital, Victoria General, Grace Hospital and other hospitals.
He said the new system will allow pharmacists and other health-care professionals to spend more time with patients and that no positions will be lost.
Bjornson said, "The RIVA system prepares syringes and IV bags for chemotherapy treatment with incredible accuracy. This is going to make our system more efficient and help us achieve the fastest cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment in the country."
Earlier this year, IHS made an arrangement with an Ontario company called ATS Automation to do the actual manufacturing of the units.
The Winnipeg company has about four units left on its production floor but ATS has already finished a few units, many of which will be delivered to Winnipeg for final testing and then shipped to the end users.
Moving production to Ontario has seen IHS's workforce decline by about five people.
The Winnipeg head office continues to employ more than 80 people with all the research and development and engineering and software work done in Winnipeg.