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Diagnostic imaging

Private MRI clinic opens in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – Manitoba has become the latest province with an MRI clinic operating outside the publicly funded healthcare system and charging patients for exams. It joins British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

In mid-December, the Maples Surgical Centre in Winnipeg began providing MRI scans to patients at a cost of $695 per exam.

The centre is operated by Dr. Mark Godley, an émigré from South Africa who has worked in Canada since the late 1980s as a general practitioner and as a trained anesthesiologist. He also directs a surgical clinic in Vancouver.

Dr. Godley was appalled that Manitoba patients must wait for months to obtain an MRI scan, while they’re able to get MRIs for their dogs and cats in a matter of hours. He has commented publicly on the inability of Canadian patients to obtain a range of services they need – from diagnostic services to surgeries –because they’re prevented from paying for their own health by government legislation.

“I don’t think it is OK for people to live in pain, and lose years of productive life because they can’t get treatment,” said Dr. Godley in The Winnipeg Free Press. “I don’t think it is OK for governments to prevent people from taking control of their own health, especially when it has so direct and personal an impact on every aspect of that person’s life. I believe the health and best interests of Manitobans are worth fighting for.”

For its part, the provincial government has made its disapproval known, with Manitoba Health Minister Tim Sale publicly stating his opposition to the imaging clinic. “The Canada Health Act says that you can’t charge for a medically necessary service,” said Sale, in reports in the Winnipeg press.

However, the government so far – at least in mid-December – hadn’t taken any action.

While critics speculate that private healthcare clinics will simply drain resources away from the public system, resulting in longer waits and poorer levels of service, Dr. Godley believes the current state of affairs has gone on too long.

He said that, “I have treated many patients who could not get the medical care they needed. So for seven years, I have worked to develop the Maples Surgical Centre in Winnipeg and the False Creek Surgical Centre in Vancouver. They are adjuncts to the healthcare system that fill the gaps where public health-care delivery has failed. They would not exist if the principles of the Canada Health Act entrusted to governments had been faithfully observed.”