ESTEVAN — People in the Estevan area have been fuming after it was revealed that a donation for an MRI scanner at St. Joseph's Hospital was denied.
According to reports that started to circulate Sunday night, Elaine Walkom of Estevan was willing to donate $2 million towards the purchase of the MRI. The Ministry of Health reportedly denied the request.
The issue was addressed at Monday's meeting of Estevan city council. Councillors Tony Sernick and Travis Frank said they have received a lot of calls and messages from people in the community over this issue.
Sernick said most people he talked to wanted to know if this was true. He said it was, and the city and surrounding RMs are calling for the government to reverse its decision.
"It's in the government's court, and we'll see where it goes," said Sernick.
Frank said there is more that goes into the decision than just purchasing the equipment, but the province should come to the table and have a conversation with city council.
Mayor Roy Ludwig said that he has spoken with Estevan MLA Lori Carr, and reported she does want to see it go through. Ludwig lauded Walkom for stepping forward with the donation, but the government also needs to come to the table.
He also pointed out Estevan previously raised the money to purchase the CT scanner at St. Joseph's Hospital and to operate it for a year.
Local rural municipalities have also been vocal on the issue, including the RM of Estevan, who noted Walkom's donation would have addressed funding for the training of two technicians.
"While there are undoubtedly other communities in similar need of these services, we do feel that having an MRI placed in the southeast will free up availability in Saskatoon and Regina, thus shortening wait times for the northern population as well. The placement of an MRI scanner at St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan would be a benefit for the entire province."
The RM said it struggles to understand the decision of the Ministry of Health and strongly urges the province to revisit placing this unit in Estevan.
In an email to the Mercury, the Ministry of Health said it thanked Walkom "for her generosity and for her interest in contributing to health care in Estevan".
"The Ministry of Health looks forward to further discussing opportunities to advance health care services in Estevan with Ms. Walkom and St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation in the near future," the email stated.
"The development of a thorough plan is key to determining if and how a new health care service can be supported and accessible in the long term. The Ministry of Health is actively working with the operator of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Emmanuel Health, to develop a plan to support discussions on this issue."
The Ministry of Health is actively working with the operator of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Emmanuel Health, to develop a thorough plan that will support ongoing discussions on this issue.
"That includes the technical considerations required to determine if and how this new service could be supported and accessible in the long term," the ministry said.
Future editions of the Mercury will have more on this story. Updates on this matter can be found on our provincial news hub at SaskToday.ca.