ESTEVAN - Estevan MLA Lori Carr says she first learned about the potential for a donation towards the purchase of an MRI scanner for St. Joseph's Hospital around the end of April 2022.
Elaine Walkom of Estevan was willing to donate $2 million towards the purchase of the equipment and training of the staff, but the Ministry of Health denied the request. The situation became public Sunday night, and since then a lot of support has been voiced towards the donation and a lot of frustration with the Ministry of Health's decision was also in the air.
Carr said she wasn't surprised with the community's reaction.
"I think this is a really important service that could be provided for the southeast, and it just shows that there will be support for it," Carr said, adding that she's also been supportive of the idea.
"I think it would be a great addition to the southeast corner. I'm 100 per cent in favour of it. I think the fact that people are travelling so far to get to MRI machines is the same argument we made when we were finally successful in getting the CT scanner back in the day," Carr said.
Estevan's CT scanner opened in 2015 after years of lobbying the provincial government for such a machine. The Estevan area fundraised for the scanner's purchase and the first year of operations.
When the information about the potential donation for an MRI first was discussed, Carr had meetings with the Ministry of Health and the SHA. She said a proposal from St. Joseph's Hospital is needed to proceed.
"We have to wait for the work to be done on a physical proposal that comes forward from St. Joseph's Hospital because they're going to be the ones that need to house it, need to run it, need to budget it, [etc.] So they're going to bring a proposal forward that will be presented to the Ministry of Health," said Carr.
"And of course, within there they'll have all of the other reasons it should go in the southeast like convenience for the people that live there; taking pressure off of the Regina region; the travel time for people who have to go all the way into Regina. For people in Gainsborough that could be as much as four hours, this will cut that time down for them in half. So, they'll have that all in their proposal and then I will take that proposal forward and continue to advocate that this is the right thing to do for the southeast corner."
She noted the acquisition of the MRI can't go forward without the proposal, as the "Hospital, who's going to be running it, needs to know what they're going to need to do to get staffing up, to be able to run the MRI machine, all of the semantics that go into that, so their proposal is a really important piece that has to flesh out the details and then we go from there."
There were discussions about the need for an MRI scanner at St. Joe's before Walkom's proposed donation, but two communities were ahead of Estevan to receive the equipment. Prince Albert is to get their MRI built into the new hospital, and North Battleford is also to receive one at some point.
There are currently six permanent MRI scanners in provincial hospitals including four in Saskatoon and two in Regina. There is also one permanent MRI scanner in Moose Jaw. There are four community-based (private) scanners – two in Regina and two in Saskatoon – and there's also a mobile scanner that services the Lloydminster area.