Recent History – 1999
Jan. 11, 1999, By Mike Leschart, Daily News Staff
Three new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) units in Alberta hospitals should see the province’s dangerously long waiting list shrink — along with allowing Peace patients to have scans done locally.
Hospitals in Lethbridge, Red Deer and Grande Prairie have received $1 million each in Alberta lottery money to go toward MRI machines, meaning Dawson Creek and area residents will no longer require a 500 kilometer trip to Edmonton for MRI scans.
According to Elmer Borstad, Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital Foundation in Grande Prairie, the waiting lists for MRI scans in Alberta can reach six, nine or even 12 months.
“If a person has to wait that long, sometimes they’re falling between the cracks,” he said. “If they had a tumor or something it could be too late by then.”
MRIs are scanning machines that operate on magnetic fields and radio waves instead of x-rays. They produce extremely clear images of the inner-workings of the human body, and can allow doctors to be sure of a patient’s ailment rather than relying on a diagnosis of symptoms.
While their most commonly known application is scanning for brain tumors, they are also used to see blood vessels around the heart, torn ligaments in legs and soft tissues in the stomach.
Borstad argues that MRI machines are also essential when recruiting doctors, who are now trained with them in medical schools.
“(The doctors) say, “You let us know when you’ve got an MRI and we’ll be interested in coming north,” Borstad said. “So that tells you the story of how important this piece of equipment is.”
The foundation is still soliciting donations to help fund the new machine, and the renovations it will require. The group is asking for a total of $4 million, of which they are about $60,000 short.
Borstad estimates the equipment — the foundation is currently awaiting proposals from three companies — will cost about $1.5 million. Rebuilding to accommodate the machine will cost another $500,000, and operation during the first year another $1 million. MRI machines need a self-contained room to prevent radio waves from coming in and MRI waves from leaving.
The foundation will also require funds to recover from the project, as Borstad said nearly all money the foundation raises is being funnelled into the MRI project. Anyone wishing to make a donation can contact the foundation at (403) 538-7585.