New MRIs Will Help Cut Wait Times
Prince George, B.C. -The University Hospital of Northern B.C. is in line for a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, and two other northern communities will be getting their own MRIs as well.
The existing MRI equipment at UHNBC is 14 years old, making it the oldest in the province, but Terrace and Ft. St. John are about to get their first as MRI service expands in the Northern Health region.
Ken Winnig is the Regional Director of Diagnostic Services for Northern Health and says the new service to Terrace and Ft. St. John should help reduce MRI waiting lists “We know that a thousand patients from the northwest travel to Prince George for their MRI having waited 6 months or longer, so by putting an MRI in their community, both in Terrace and in Ft. St. John, the wait will decrease and the distance travelled will decrease.” Currently some patients in the northeast will travel to Alberta for an MRI while about 300 will travel to Prince George.
When Prince George was first pushing to have MRI service the argument against providing that service here was that the area didn’t have the population base to support the service. Winnig says that was a time when MRI was an ’emerging’ diagnostic technology “Now it’s really a common diagnostic tool, so it’s improved, it’s become more common, and it’s become an expectation from our ordering physicians. It’s a support for our surgeons and our orthopaedic surgeons, so the applicability and how it’s used has really increased over the years. So, something that was a new technology has now become a mainstream technology.
Winnig says the MRIs will serve the communities for years to come “We know the Northwest will grow, we know the Northeast will grow and Prince George will grow, so we’re just preparing for that.”
In preparation for the addition of the MRI’s Winnig says two x-ray technicians from the Northeast and two from the Northwest have been taking an 18 month training program. They will complete their studies in January, which should coincide with when the new equipment will be installed and ready to use. “Once we offer the service with these technicians in the community, then we can recruit for additional positions, but we will already have technical staff in place.”
Siemens has been awarded the contract for the three new machines and will soon be meeting with Northern Health officials to develop the plan for installation and commissioning of the new equipment.
In all, the cost of the equipment and installation is $8.3 million dollars. The costs are being covered by the Ministry of Health with contributions from the Regional Hospital Districts of Fraser Fort George, Peace River and Northwest as well as local foundations.