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Province injects $11 million into MRI exams

Northern Health expected to perform 70 per cent more in next 12 months
file photo The securely wrapped MRI machine for Mills Memorial Hospital is lifted to the hospital’s second floor.

Northern Health is hoping to boost the number of MRI scans performed in Mills Memorial and other hospitals by 70 per by this time next year.

The province announced March 27 it will be channeling $11 million province-wide to help the five health authorities add resources and capacity to meet a target of 37,000 additional MRI exams in the next 12 months.

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“This is a bold step to dramatically increase the number of MRI exams being done in B.C., and this coming year alone, the increase will be close to 20 per cent,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “We are delivering on our promise to restore services and find capacity in our public health-care system so that British Columbians don’t have to wait months and months for prescribed exams. We know that by rebuilding and expanding capacity in the public system, we will improve access to care and patient outcomes.”

For Northern Health that means boosting capacity 70 per cent to 13,000 exams from 7,600 exams in the previous 12 months.

How that will channel into Mills Memorial Hospital has not yet been finalized. The hospital celebrated its 500th exam last December, following the purchase and installation of its first and only machine in August, 2017.

According to the Ministry of Health 50 per cent of B.C. patients wait more than 41 days for an MRI exam. For patients in Northern Health hospitals the wait times are 56 days or less, about average for all areas except the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which greatly brings down the overall average with a wait time of just 14 days.

To lower all those numbers, the province will be asking the health authorities to operate the machines longer during the day, hire more staff and establish a centralized intake at the regional level to reduce duplicate referrals and appointments with the aim of eliminating wasted operating time.

In addition to increasing capacity, the ministry is also working with health authorities to find ways to make sure referrals for MRI are the most appropriate diagnostic choice.

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