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VIHA opts to re-think its decision to scrap mobile MRI services

Campbell River hospital may still receive a mobile MRI machine despite the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s (VIHA) decision two weeks ago to abandon the service.

The health authority announced it would not invest in a mobile MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) unit that would rotate between the Campbell River, Comox Valley and Cowichan Valley hospitals, citing cost concerns.

But just days after the announcement, Catherine Mackay, VIHA’s chief operating official, asked VIHA staff to review its decision.

“Following the decision, a number of very good points were raised and suggestions put forward,” said Jocelyn Stanton, spokesperson for the health authority. “VIHA really sees the value in MRI services and remains interested in advancing the service if able to do so.”

Last month VIHA sent out a request for proposals to deliver the mobile unit, but weeks later, the health authority announced it had called off those plans saying the cost would be over $600 per MRI scan, too expensive compared to VIHA’s existing cost of $250 for scans done at Nanaimo or Victoria hospitals.

VIHA had been looking for a five-year contract for 2,500 scans per year with a mobile service that would move one or two times each month between three or four locations.

But then the health authority announced July 21 that it would not award a contract.

That decision raised the ire of both North Island MLA Claire Trevena and Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley who co-wrote letters to the president of VIHA, Howard Waldner, and Health Minister Mike de Jong, urging VIHA to reverse its decision, which they said would negatively impact thousands of people.

“The sudden announcement that you do 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 and Routley wrote in their letters dated July 27. “It has been described by some in the medical community as ‘devastating’ and ‘as if the rug were pulled from under us.’”

Stanton said VIHA recognizes the value and importance of MRI scanning equipment to a community and it will do its best to accommodate everyone.

“I think another review of costing and the process will occur,” Stanton said. “And I believe that’s underway right now.”

She said right now there is no timeline as to when the review will be complete.

The only MRI machines on the Island are in Nanaimo and Victoria.

MRI is a specialized technology that uses magnetic and radio waves to allow radiologists to see inside the body.

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