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Province okays MRI project


The Parkland received an early Christmas present from the province when Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced the long-awaited installation of an MRI at Dauphin Regional Health Centre will proceed.
The decision to purchase the magnetic resonance imaging machine was made despite a report from the wait times task force released last week which indicated the province does not need any more MRIs.
The report indicated there is enough capacity within the existing system to provide more MRI service and reduce wait times by expanding the hours of operation for the 13 MRIs currently operating in Manitoba to 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Certainly I think that is an important recommendation, one that we are going to take seriously and look to implement over a longer period of time,” he said, adding those recommendations had to be balanced with the work that has already been done in Dauphin to prepare for an MRI facility.
The actual “bunker” to house the machine is mostly completed and represents an investment of $6 million, $5 million of which has already been spent.
“And there has been community investment of several hundreds of thousands of dollars which has been put into that already,” Goertzen said.
“Also looking at the fact that it won’t happen overnight that we will be able to get the usage of the current capacity up to 16 hours a day. There will clearly be a phase in period and additional capacity within that context won’t be unhelpful.”
Ultimately, the decision to proceed with the project came down to work of Dauphin MLA Brad Michaleski in advocating for the project, Goertzen said.
“This was really difficult decision because there was pros and cons both ways in terms of what the wait times task force was saying and the fact that there was significant community investment in it,” the minister said.
“I really think the tipping point was Mr. Michaleski’s strong advocacy of the community had come a long way with the facility and this project, his strong advocacy that he believes we can get it utilized at the best capacity possible. And I think really, if there is credit to be shared in terms of this project going foreward, it should be given to Brad.”
From Michaleski’s perspective the decision to proceed with the project is the latest in a series of decisions which are improving health care in the province,
“Of course I am very pleased with the announcement today. Today is a great day for the Parkland and a great day for the Westman region in terms of MRI services,” Michaleski said.
“I know they have waited a long time and I really do want to thank Minister Goertzen for the announcement today. And I want to say what an outstanding job he is doing on the health care department and the changes that are going on around the province. It is about better care.”
While there is no clear timeline for completion of the project, Goertzen said orders have been given to complete the building and to build the machine.
Given the challenges the community has faced with the project being put on hold to wait for the report from the wait times task force , Goertzen is reluctant to put a firm timeline on the project.
“I don’t want to be throwing around a lot of dates other than obviously we will do it as quickly as possible But I don’t want to put out any false expectations other than we have committed to move forward with it,” Goertzen said, adding the machine will cost somewhere around the $2 million mark and take three to four months to build.
“The machine, I know there was some rumours and speculation awhile ago that it was on a boat somewhere crossing the Atlantic. That is not the case. It was not built, but it will now be ordered to be built and the instalation will proceed in a time frame that works.”
As for the ongoing operating costs and the capacity the Dauphin MRI will add to the system, Goertzen said further analysis will need to be undertaken as none was done by the previous government or the rural health authority prior to the project being approved.
“So we will have a better understanding of the operating costs when we have a better understanding of what the utilization will be.”
And while the province will proceed with the recommendation to better utilize existing MRIs, Goertzen believes having an additional machine in Dauphin will only help the effort to reduce wait times.
“It won’t change the direction of better utilization of the MRIs we have in Manitoba It will probably provide us some flexibility though because as we go through changes in Winnipeg as we look to get better utilization of the existing MRIs, that won’t happen overnight,” he said.
“Having some flexibility by having additional capacity in the system in Dauphin, that will be helpful.”