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MLA wants VIHA to reverse its decision on mobile MRI

Vancouver Island Health Authority’s (VIHA) decision to not provide mobile MRI services at Campbell River hospital is devastating to the medical community, says North Island MLA Claire Trevena.

She said VIHA’s course of action will negatively impact hospital staff as well as the several thousands of people who live in region.

“The sudden announcement that VIHA does not plan to proceed with the establishment of this new service will inevitably impact recruitment and retention of radiologists in Campbell River and the Comox Valley, at a time when the two communities are awaiting their two new hospitals,” Trevena said in a letter to Health Minister Mike de Jong, co-written by Doug Routley, Cowichan Valley MLA.

“It has been described by some in the medical community as ‘devastating’ and ‘as if the rug were pulled from under us.’”

VIHA sought a five-year contract for 2,500 scans per year with a mobile service that would rotate between three or four locations, moving one or two times each month between Campbell River, Comox Valley and Cowichan Valley hospitals.

But following a review of six proposals, VIHA decided not to award a contract to the external provider.

“The cost for an external mobile service would be over $600 per MRI scan; VIHA’s cost is approximately $250 per scan done on a site that has an existing MRI,” said a release from VIHA issued last Thursday.

“Given this difference, VIHA has decided not to award a contract and will instead provide 22,764 MRI scans in-house this year, an increase from the 21,740 MRI scans that were performed in 2010/11 and 18,526 scans performed in 2009/10.”

But Trevena doesn’t believe cost was the sole deciding factor.

“It is disingenuous for the health authority to use cost as an excuse when it must have known that when starting its RFP (Request for Proposals) process, that the cost would be higher for a mobile MRI than a static one.

“We would hope that you would act on behalf of all the people on Vancouver Island, who expect equity in health care provision, and ask that VIHA reverse its decision,” Trevena and Routley wrote in their joint letter to de Jong.

Trevena said the benefits of having the mobile MRI services would be great.

“It will reduce wait times for the approximate 3,000 people a year who, at present, have to travel a great distance to have the MRI,” she said.

“It will also reduce their travel cost and save them a great deal of time.”

She added radiologists across the Island were strongly in favour of the mobile services to complement the existing, permanent services in Nanaimo and Victoria.

VIHA said over the past 18 months wait times for MRI scans, a specialized technology which uses magnetic and radio waves, have decreased.

The average wait time for an MRI scan in Victoria is approximately 10 weeks, down from 27 weeks in July 2010 and about 16 weeks in Nanaimo, down from 32 weeks a year ago, according to the news release.

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