Health Minister Terry Lake and Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett joined representatives from Interior Health, Kootenay East Regional Hospital District, East Kootenay Foundation for Health, and Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary to announce a $5.3 million investment in a permanent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine for East Kootenay Regional Hospital (EKRH).
“Through the provincial MRI strategy announced last year, we are already seeing significant increases in MRI scans across B.C., including 20 per cent more tests last year at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “This announcement paves the way for even more testing closer to home and is great news for all residents of the region.”
“With this announcement, we continue to build on the long list of investments that have made East Kootenay Regional Hospital a world-class facility,” said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett. “Our priority is to give staff and physicians the tools they need to provide excellent care right here in Cranbrook.”
Interior Health anticipates the permanent MRI will be operational some time in 2018. Currently, MRI testing for East Kootenay residents is done through a shared mobile MRI unit that comes to East Kootenay Regional Hospital one week in four. When the new MRI machine becomes operational, East Kootenay residents will have consistent weekly access to scheduled MRI testing.
“A permanent MRI in Cranbrook will increase local access to this important diagnostic test and will all but eliminate the need for East Kootenay residents to travel outside the region for MRIs. It will also free up the mobile MRI unit that currently serves East Kootenay Regional Hospital, thereby providing more access to MRIs for other areas of Interior Health. This is good news that goes beyond the East Kootenay,” said Interior Health Board Chair Erwin Malzer.
Ministry of Health and Kootenay East Regional Hospital District are each contributing $2 million to the MRI project, with East Kootenay Foundation for Health and Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary committing to fundraise $650,000 to cover the remaining $1.3 million. The $5.3 million will cover the cost of the new machine and required renovations/additions to create the space at East Kootenay Regional Hospital, where the unit will be located.
“Recognizing the importance of having a permanent MRI at our Regional Hospital, the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District included funds in our 2016 Financial Plan hoping this project would become a reality,” said Kootenay East Regional Hospital District (KERHD) Chair Dean McKerracher. “Today’s announcement is great news for the entire region, and we look forward to the benefits a permanent MRI will create.”
“East Kootenay Foundation for Health has been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to support a new MRI machine for the region,” said Wes Rogers, Chair of EKFH. “The foundation will be launching our MRI campaign in the weeks ahead and I’m confident our communities will show the same tremendous support they always have for health care initiatives in the East Kootenay.”
MRI 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. MRIs are used to diagnose a number of medical conditions, including abnormalities of the brain, as well as tumors, cysts and soft-tissue injuries in other parts of the body. MRI scans are important diagnostic tools that do not use radiation; however, other types of diagnostic imaging – x-ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) – are more appropriate tools for many types of medical conditions.
In addition to the current mobile MRI unit (which also provides service in Penticton and Trail), Interior Health has MRI units at Kelowna General Hospital and Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. Another permanent MRI machine has been approved for Penticton Regional Hospital thanks to a major community donation through the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation and is expected to become operational in 2019.