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Medical technology

Ontario invests $120 million in MRI, CT and radiation therapy

TORONTO – The Ontario government is reducing the waiting time for key health services by delivering 119,865 additional MRI, CT and cardiac diagnostic procedures, as well as critical cancer radiation treatments.

“We are taking action to ensure that people who are suffering from serious health problems do not have to wait long periods of time for diagnosis and treatment,” said Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman. “We are modernizing our diagnostic and medical equipment in order to improve the health and quality of life for tens of thousands of patients in every area of the province.”

The announcement of more than $120 million will improve access to key procedures by replacing old equipment with more efficient new machines, and by increasing the hours of operation of existing MRI machines.

The equipment upgrades include:

• $21 million to replace old MRI scanners at seven hospitals, delivering 18,581 new exams a year;

• $45.3 million to replace old CT scanners at 23 hospitals, delivering 81,268 more exams a year;

• $8.5 million to replace old cardiac equipment at five hospitals, delivering 1,016 more diagnostic procedures a year to detect and prevent heart disease;

• $38.45 million to Cancer Care Ontario and the University Health Network’s Princess Margaret Hospital to replace and upgrade radiation therapy equipment to treat people with cancer more quickly;

• $2 million for MRI monitoring equipment at hospitals, to ensure patients’ comfort and safety;

• $5 million to immediately extend the hours of operation of existing MRIs at 29 hospitals, delivering 19,000 more exams in 2004/2005.

“The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario is encouraged to hear the government has cardiac patients on its radar screen. The replacement of older cardiac equipment is a first step in helping to meet the growing needs of this population in the province,” said Dr. Anthony Graham, Foundation spokesperson.

“This announcement is part of our comprehensive approach to improving access to healthcare,” said Dr. Alan Hudson, who is leading the implementation of the wait time strategy. “We are changing the way health care is managed and delivered in order to ensure patients get the timely care they need.”

This investment is part of the Dalton McGuinty government’s wait time strategy, announced last November, to shorten wait times for five key health services – cataract surgery, cancer care, cardiac procedures, hip and knee joint replacements, and MRI/CT exams.

“Our government is delivering on its plan to improve access to MRI services. Since being elected, we have increased the number of MRI scans we are funding by 20 percent,” Smitherman said. “For those who get a clean bill of health, an MRI scan will mean peace of mind. For others, it will mean a fighting chance against a disease such as cancer where early detection is vital.”