Permanent MRI coming to hospital

$5.3 million project will see permanent MRI unit at regional hospital for full-time service in 2018.

Celebrating the news of a permanent MRI unit: Dean McKerracher (Chair

Celebrating the news of a permanent MRI unit: Dean McKerracher (Chair

A permanent MRI unit is coming to the East Kootenay Regional Hospital and is expected to be operational by 2018, announced B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake on Tuesday outside the new ICU in Cranbrook.

The $5.3 million project will be funded by the province ($2 million), the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board ($2 million), the East Kootenay Foundation for Health ($650,000) and the Cranbrook Healthcare Auxiliary ($650,000).

Lake praised the partnership between the varying levels of government and volunteer organizations that adds another element of patient care to the facility.

“It’s another investment in the East Kootenay Regional Hospital, which of course, serves a large region of the Kootenays and following the ICU—to have a permanent MRI scanner here really will improve the ability reduce wait times, give people that early diagnosis which is so critical for treating serious diseases,” Lake said.

Currently, the EKRH is served by a mobile MRI unit that stays for one week out of the month before moving to other areas of the province.

Lake said that having a permanent MRI in Cranbrook will allow local patients to receive access to the service, while freeing up the mobile unit to visit other areas of Interior Health jurisdiction.

“First of all, it’s a busy hospital,” Lake said. “We know that there is the demand here for this service. People who live here know what it’s like to travel if you have to have an urgent MRI done and you have to go to Kelowna, for instance— in the wintertime, that’s particularly challenging.

“…Having a permanent MRI here will not only reduce wait times, but it will reduce travel times for people in the area.”

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett said that improving health care service and capability at the EKRH is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an elected official.

“With this announcement, we continue to build on the long list of investments that have made East Kootenay Regional Hospital a world-class facility,” Bennett said. “Our priority is to give staff and physicians the tools they need to provide excellent health care right here in Cranbrook.”

Dr. Lawrence Jewett, the Chief of Staff at the EKRH, said the addition of a permanent MRI is one of the final pieces of the puzzle for the facility, and is just another capability that will help with physician recruitment.

“This is the final piece, the infrastructure that Mr. Bennett and I dreamed about 20 years ago, when we started this campaign,” Jewett said.

MRI—Magnetic Resonance Imaging—is a safe and painless test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the body’s organs and structures. It is used to diagnose a number of medical conditions such as abnormalities of the brain, identifying tumours and cysts and soft-tissue injuries.

MRI’s are different from other diagnostic imaging, as it doesn’t use radiation, however, other imaging types such as x-ray, ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) can be more appropriate tools for many different types of medical conditions.