NORTHERN charitable foundations who raise money for hospitals and health care facilities in their home communities are banding together on an ambitious plan to raise millions of dollars for a wholesale upgrade of medical imaging equipment throughout the region.
And they’re starting with an $8.3 million project to purchase a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit for Mills Memorial Hospital, as well as a unit for the hospital in Fort St. John and a replacement of the one in Prince George.
The provincial government has already committed itself to 40 per cent of the cost and the three regional hospital districts have promised the same, through property taxes, within the areas the hospitals serve.
While the Northern Health Authority, which runs medical services throughout the north, says it’s prepared to cover the remaining 20 per cent or $1.66 million, it will also depend upon community foundations to raise some of that amount.
With a budget approaching $1 billion a year, the health authority could afford the 20 per cent by itself but having the foundations involved can only help, says authority official Steve Raper.
“We can find the money but it might have meant not having equipment purchases take place as fast elsewhere,” he said.
The three-MRI project is just the first part of a larger picture which involves a 10-year campaign by the health authority to upgrade various diagnostic imaging devices in all of its facilities.
Exact costs aren’t known but estimates place the figure at more than $20 million for what’s being called the medical imaging campaign initiative.
The 10-year plan takes in a wide variety of imaging services, including ultrasound, and health authority officials say the plan will evolve over the years as technology changes.
But the core of it will remain that health care services will increase throughout the north and people won’t have to travel as far to obtain those services.
The only MRI unit in the north is in Prince George and there are long waiting periods and people may end up being referred to facilities in the Lower Mainland or elsewhere.
The prospect of a wholesale effort to purchase new diagnostic imaging equipment across the north is what drew foundations to begin discussing a common front, says Trevor Lutes, the former chair of the Spirit of the North Foundation in Prince George who is now spearheading this new campaign.
The concept being developed is that the bigger the financial request, the larger the corporation or business that can be approached, he said.
“By having this large campaign we can speak to the larger corporations who do business across the north — to the boardrooms in Toronto and Calgary,” said Lutes.
“And by having the foundations work together, we can make this happen that much quicker.”
No foundation is being forced to join the larger campaign and each is free to continue their efforts to raise money within their own communities for specific needs of their home hospitals and health care institutions, said Lutes.
The Dr. REM Lee Hospital Foundation has signed onto the region-wide imaging campaign and is looking forward to working with the other foundations involved, said chair Ron Bartlett.
“We don’t think this will have any effect on what we do locally,” he said. “There are corporations who will contribute at a local level and at a higher level, they can be approached for that larger dollar.”
The foundation directors are already excited that two technicians from Mills are already being trained to operate the MRI unit once installed here, Bartlett continued.
“This is going to be so beneficial, not just for Terrace but for the area,” he said. “We’re going to be the smallest hospital in B.C. to have one.”
Bartlett said the REM Lee Hospital Foundation has had the benefit of much support from the community to meet its specific medical equipment goals.
“Last year we raised and then provided $400,000. That’s been very gratifying,” he said.
The three-MRI project has taken a step forward now that Siemens, an international company dealing in everything from generating power to installing lights on runways, has agreed to provide all three units.