MRI for North Island after all

Campbell River hospital will receive a mobile MRI machine, the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) announced Tuesday morning

Campbell River hospital will receive a mobile MRI machine, the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) announced Tuesday morning.

The portable Mobile Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine will rotate between hospitals in Campbell River, the Comox Valley, Port Alberni and Duncan so patients will no longer have to travel to Nanaimo or Victoria for scans.

“This is great news for patients and families living on the North Island, West Coast and Cowichan Valley,” said Don McRae, Liberal MLA for the Comox Valley.

“Being closer to home means less travel time which helps reduce stress  and that’s a big part of the equation when it comes to your health.”

The new machine is expected to be fully operational by late spring or early summer 2012 and will be located on a specially-designed pad in the Campbell River hospital. It will operate 50 weeks per year with two weeks designated for service and maintenance.

The news comes two months after VIHA announced it was backing out of mobile MRI services.

North Island NDP MLA Claire Trevena is thrilled VIHA reversed its decision.

“I’m really pleased they did change their mind and decided to give us an MRI,” Trevena said. “A number of people, myself included and my colleague Cowichan MLA Bill Routley, wrote to VIHA urging them to re-consider mobile MRI services.

“It’s long over due for many patients on the North Island.”

In April VIHA sent out a request for proposals to deliver the mobile unit only to turn them all down weeks later, citing cost factors. But just days after announcing it would no longer pursue mobile MRI services, Catherine Mackay, VIHA’s chief operating official, asked VIHA staff to review its decision.

On Tuesday, VIHA revealed it had over turned that verdict.

“I have advocated for mobile MRI for many years, so I’m very pleased they’ve decided to do this,” Trevena said.

It’s expected the new machines will perform more than 3,800 MRI scans, amounting to 16.5 per cent of the total 23,000 MRI’s provided annually by VIHA.

The volumes and schedule in each community will be determined based on population size and historical MRI use.

“The importance of MRI in diagnosing and supporting the treatment of disease has grown rapidly in recent years as the technology has improved,” said Dr. John Mathieson, Medical Director of Medical Imaging for VIHA, in a news release.

“A mobile MRI service is a significant addition to VIHA’s medical imaging services and will support better patient care and outcome as well as ensuring our radiologists throughout Vancouver Island have the opportunity to conduct reads on this increasingly important technology.”

Regional Hospital Districts have expressed interest in bringing these services to their communities. Over the coming weeks, VIHA will be discussing funding arrangements with them.