© Times-Herald photo by Nathan Liewicki
Saskatchewan Health Minister Dusitin Duncan announces the new regional hospital in Moose Jaw will be home to a new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit at the Heritage Inn Friday. The $3.3 million cost of of the MRI will be raised by the Moose Jaw Health Foundation, but the province will fund the annual operating costs associated with it when it becomes operational in 2016.
Health ministry to pay for operational costs
The Moose Jaw Health Foundation (MJHF) is taking a leap of faith – a $3.3 million leap of faith.
“This $3.3 million commitment is the largest single component of our $8 million campaign to build the hospital of tomorrow today,” said Dave Reidy, chair of MJHF’s capital campaign.
That money, Health Minister Dustin Duncan announced Friday at the Heritage Inn, will fund a new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit for the new regional hospital.
Although the MJHF will raise the $3.3 million needed to purchase, build space for and install the MRI, the health ministry will foot the bill for all ongoing operational costs associated with the new medical device.
“Our estimate right now is somewhere between $2 million to $3 million in operations,” Duncan said when asked what the expected annual cost of operating the MRI.
That estimation, Duncan added, is based on population numbers and the proportion of the population that generally uses MRIs in a given year.
So why make the announcement now?
“At this point it made a lot of sense to do it now rather than have the hospital be complete and then come back in a couple of years and then make a decision on the MRI,” said the minister.
“This way, as the region plans for the completion of the hospital, they can start looking at potential vendors for the MRI … and start making some decisions around the actual space they will need for the specific machine.”
The new MRI, which will be seventh permanent hospital-based unit in Saskatchewan, will also help reduce wait times for medical diagnosis and treatment for patients.
Since 2008-09, the number of patients receiving MRI services in the province have almost doubled from 17,949 patients to an estimated 33,825 patients expected during the 2014-15 fiscal year.
“This (MRI) will allow us to have capabilities to move some of our patients to Moose Jaw,” said Duncan. “Also, in the future, if we need to increase the number of diagnostics that we do perform in a year, it gives us one more site to do that in. We think it will have a benefit in the long-term of reducing the wait times for MRIs in southern Saskatchewan.”
Duncan said the province’s aim to cut the wait time for diagnostics in half by March 31, 2019 is a “pretty ambitious goal,” but believes it will be met.
The MRI is not expected to be operational until early 2016, but Reidy said discussion around having an MRI unit in the new regional hospital started in 2013.
Two questions were asked of donors and stakeholders: what do you see the greatest needs for equipment at this new hospital; and the second one was what would motivate you to support the fundraising efforts of the Moose Jaw Health Foundation to equip the new regional hospital?
“The overwhelming response to this was MRI,” said Reidy.
He added that when leaders from the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR) visited with regional municipalities in 2013, there were very strong statements made that an MRI was not only a want, but also a need.
FHHR CEO Cheryl Craig said the announcement of an MRI means so much and has brought a heightened level of excitement to the region.
“The addition of an MRI into our suite of diagnostic imaging tools means our patients will be able to receive services closer to home and in a more timely way.”
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks