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Diagnostic Imaging

N.S. to add four new MRIs

HALIFAX – Nova Scotians will receive MRIs more quickly and closer to home as a result of four new MRI machines. Premier John Hamm announced the government’s plan to expand and improve MRI services in Nova Scotia by installing the devices in Kentville, Antigonish, Yarmouth and New Glasgow.

“This is a major step on the road map to reduce wait times and improve health care,” said Premier Hamm. “This fall, I indicated that new federal health money Nova Scotia received through the First Ministers’ Meeting would be spent on health, particularly to reduce wait times. As a government, we are keeping our word.”

Expanding the MRI capacity in Nova Scotia was one of the top priorities cited in Your Health Matters – the government’s plan for better health care, released in 2003.

Three MRI machines are currently located in Halifax, and one in Cape Breton. These four publicly funded scanners provide service to 950,000 people in Nova Scotia – a ratio of one scanner to 235,000 people. New Brunswick has one scanner for 150,000 people, the best ratio in Canada. The additional four machines will see Nova Scotia move to a number one ranking with one scanner for 117,500 people.

“With these new machines, Nova Scotians will have access to double the number of MRIs,” said Health Minister Angus MacIsaac. “We are building more capacity in our rural areas, with a commitment to replace equipment in Halifax as our next priority.”

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. An MRI can make detailed three-dimensional images of the body’s soft tissues.

In recognition of rapidly improving and evolving technology, the province is allowing health districts to decide if the new generation of multi-slice CT scanners, rather than MRIs, would better suit their needs. The IWK Health Centre will purchase one of these CT scanners to support services for children and women.

Over the next few months, the four district health authorities will work with the Nova Scotia Department of Health to purchase the equipment and to develop service guidelines for their use. Renovations and recruiting radiology technicians will also be a priority.

The funding for this equipment will be shared 75/25 by the provincial government and the communities in which they will be located.

The province’s portion, estimated at $2.5 million per unit (including purchase and installation), is being taken from Nova Scotia’s share of funding arranged through the First Ministers’ Meeting Accord. Nova Scotia is receiving $62 million for 2004-05. Ongoing operational costs for each service location are estimated at $750,000 per year.