Skip to content

Efforts to bring MRI to Estevan continue; people urged to maintain support

Elaine Walkom and Dean Martens met with representatives of St. Joseph's Hospital on Wednesday, and said the meeting was encouraging.
From left, Candace Kopec, Lori Gervais, Corey Miller, Elaine Walkom and Dean Martens gather for a group photo after the meeting.

ESTEVAN - Two people looking to bring an MRI unit to St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan were encouraged with the discussion they had Wednesday during a meeting with hospital representatives.

Elaine Walkom, who offered to donate $2 million to bring a scanner to the hospital, was joined by Dean Martens to meet with hospital executive director Candace Kopec, hospital foundation executive director Lori Gervais, and Emmanuel Health president and CEO Corey Miller.

"We're more encouraged than we were before. We went into this meeting not knowing what the outcome would be, and feel better about it. Encouraged and … better," Walkom said in an interview with the Mercury and SaskToday.

Walkom said Miller wants to have a proposal for the MRI delivered to the provincial government in the fall, in time for the government's 2024-25 budget deliberations. She came away from the meeting very impressed with Miller.

"We felt that he was pretty upfront with us, explained a lot of things and took his time. There's so much involved," said Walkom.

The MRI would be located in the same area as the CT scanner and the laboratory at the hospital.

"The community has to stay pushing this and stay onside and make sure they know how it's moving ahead, because that's been one of our bigger things is having everyone onside and wanting to see this," said Martens.

They were told during the meeting that the hospital representatives would keep in touch with Walkom and Martens.

He noted he's had phone calls from people in northern Saskatchewan who thought the MRI at St. Joe's would be beneficial.

"It's not just a southeast Saskatchewan fix, it's a Saskatchewan province fix," said Martens. I don't know why the politicians can't figure that out when just the normal, run-of-the Joe people can see that if we get everybody funnelled to one more [location], it will make things better."

The more pressure that's applied, the better and faster an MRI in Estevan would happen, he said.

"I haven't heard one bad thing but I really hadn't expected to," added Walkom. "People are really excited about this because it's going to be a large help to their lives," said Walkom.

They noted that Miller has set up four or five different MRIs in the past and has an understanding of how to get the work complete.  

"I think it's huge," said Walkom. "He … knows the people to contact and contractors that do the specialty work."

The meeting was also a good learning experience for Walkom and Martens. For example, they learned they need a radiologist before the MRI unit can be operational.

"The MRI in Estevan is going to be another positive thing for getting doctors to move down here to set up shop in Estevan," said Martens.

Walkom's desire to see an MRI unit installed at the hospital became public in mid-September. She offered $2 million for the purchase of the MRI and the training of two staff members as a legacy project in honour of her late husband Grant. The Walkoms owned Hank's Maintenance, a successful oilfield business in Estevan.  

She made the offer in March, and the provincial government denied the request two months later. When the government's decision became public in September, it was widely panned in the southeast region.

The hospital will need to submit the proposal before the project can proceed.  

The next edition of the Mercury will have more on this story.