MILLS Memorial Hospital in Terrace is to get a magnetic resonance imaging unit by next spring. A supplier has yet to be chosen for the unit.

Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, B.C. gets an imaging upgrade

The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit will benefit patients across northwestern B.C.

MILLS Memorial Hospital is to be the home of a sophisticated MRI unit next spring, giving physicians a more detailed view of the inside of a patient’s body.

Costing nearly $3 million, the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) unit will be financed by the North West Regional Hospital District, the Northern Health Authority and the province.

Mills will need to renovate a space the machine, said Steve Raper from the health authority which runs the hospital.

“It will require some renovations, but we don’t know what that will look like or where they are going to put it at this point,” he said.

That will be decided when the health authority picks a supplier leading toward having the unit in place next spring.

Mills already has a CT (or computed tomography) device, installed in 2006, which isused for truama and acutely ill patients. An MRI takes longer but gives more detailed images of soft tissues and joints, and it is used for surgeries and detecting and treating cancer.

The Northern Health Authority had originally planned to buy a mobile MRI unit to travel between Terrace and Fort St. John but it was convinced to buy two fixed units because of advancing technology and price changes, said Raper.

“It’s still a larger investment, but the investment isn’t as large as it would have been and it made it feasible and realistic for us to move forward in this direction,’ said Raper.

“[We want to] plan for the future and try and get ahead of some of the potential volumes we might experience with an aging population,” Raper said.

Having an MRI in Terrace will decrease wait times and improve access for residents in the northwest, who will not have to travel to Vancouver or Prince George for the exam.

Northern Health started last January training hospital staff to use MRI technology, including two people in Terrace and two in Fort St. John. Their training will finish with a 16-week practicum by next spring.

“That is also a challenge, making sure that we have the right resources to staff this equipment when it is up and ready to roll,” Raper said. “We are working with people already living in the communities, because that is a better long-term strategy for us.”

A CT scan is typically used for trauma and acutely ill patients and uses x-ray radiation to take pictures of organs, bone, and blood vessels all in the same scan.

By comparison, an MRI is better for looking at soft tissues, joints, tendons/ligaments and provides more detail than a CT scan. It takes an average of 30 minutes, compared to a five-minute CT scan, and uses large magnet and radio waves to produce an image.