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Diagnostic imaging

Mobile MRI gets green light on Vancouver Island

VICTORIA – Patients on Vancouver Island will soon have improved, locally available access to Mobile Resonance Imaging (MRI), as the Vancouver Island Health Authority announced the establishment of mobile MRI services for Campbell River, the Comox Valley, Port Alberni and Duncan.

“This is great news for patients and families living on the North Island, West Coast and Cowichan Valley,” said Don McRae, MLA for the Comox Valley. “Being closer to home means less travel time which helps reduce stress and that’s a big part of the equation when it comes to your health.”

The new VIHA-operated service is expected to be up and running in late spring or early summer of 2012. The mobile MRI will be located on specially designed pads in Campbell River, Comox, Port Alberni and the Cowichan Valley. It will operate 50 weeks per year with two weeks designated for service and maintenance.

Over 3,800 MRI scans are planned to be performed by the mobile scanner, amounting to 16.5% of the total 23,000 MRIs that are provided annually in VIHA at this time. The volumes and schedule in each community will be determined based on population size and historical MRI use.

“The importance of MRI in diagnosing and supporting the treatment of disease has grown rapidly in recent years as the technology has improved,” said Dr. John Mathieson, Medical Director of Medical Imaging for VIHA. “A mobile MRI service is a significant addition to VIHA’s medical imaging services and will support better patient care and outcome as well as ensuring our radiologists throughout Vancouver Island have the opportunity to conduct reads on this increasingly important technology.”

Regional Hospital Districts have expressed interest in bringing these services to their communities. Over the coming weeks, VIHA will be discussing funding arrangements with them.

VIHA had issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the mobile imaging service in April, seeking a five-year contract for 2,500 scans per year. On July 21st, after reviewing six proposals, VIHA announced it would not award a contract for the service because of cost concerns. That sparked an angry backlash from local health care advocates.

One local radiologist said the decision was potentially disastrous for local health care and the recruitment of future radiologists. NDP MLAs questioned VIHA’s cost figures, saying one of the proponents had quoted a scan price roughly half of what VIHA had claimed.

In August, VIHA said the decision to scrap the service would be reviewed because there had been “a number of very good points made, questions raised and suggestions put forward.”

Posted November 3, 2011