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Editorial: Persistence pays off with MRI announcement

Raising the money won't be easy, but the southeast has proven itself to be very generous.
An opinion piece on the MRI project moving forward for the southeast.

People across southeast Saskatchewan were hopefully celebrating Wednesday's announcement that the provincial government has given the green light for fundraising to proceed on an MRI scanner at St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan.

It's the announcement that so many people in the southeast have been waiting to hear. But the work doesn't get any easier now that we know it's coming. The St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation has to raise $6.5 million to bring the machine here, but they have a $2 million head start thanks to the generosity of Estevan's Elaine Walkom, who has long been a proponent of the service.

Raising the remaining $4.5 million is not going to be easy. Estevan, and the southeast region as a whole, have shown their tremendous generosity in the past. Nearly a decade ago, a CT scanner was purchased and installed for St. Joe's because the community raised the $2 million to make it happen. But that took time. The ask is even greater this time.

This is not just going to be an Estevan campaign. This is going to be a southeast Saskatchewan effort. The people of Estevan are not the only ones who have been eagerly awaiting this announcement, or who have been calling for an MRI. If it's easier for you to travel to Estevan than Regina for a scan (and there are tens of thousands of people who fit this category), then you should be thrilled that there might be an MRI coming.

You never know if or when you might need the procedure. And if you don't need one now, there a good chance you know someone who does, who has been waiting months for it to happen. 

The presence of an MRI will also make it easier to attract health-care professionals. We aren't the only area facing a shortage of health professionals; every asset we have at our disposal will help us attract and retain them.

If you're able to give to this campaign, this cause is well worth it. We know everyone doesn't have the ability to give, especially in this day and age with the rising cost of living and doing business. But those who can donate won't regret it.

The MRI scanner wasn't the only goodie in the budget for people in the southeast. There's $2.5 million more for the new Estevan Regional Nursing Home, as that project continues to inch towards construction. There is more money for the much-needed kindergarten-Grade 12 school in Carlyle.

Work is expected to begin on Highway 18 from Estevan to Outram, with resurfacing to occur in 2025, and there is money for Grant Devine Lake near Alameda, too.

It's a pre-election budget and it delivers the spending that one would expect. Yes, there's a deficit, which shouldn't happen, but at $273 million, it wouldn't take much to turn that deficit into a surplus. (And it obviously wouldn't take much to add to that deficit, either).

We should all be grateful to Walkom, not just for her generosity, but for her persistence. If she didn't step forward with the $2 million, we're not having this discussion. She offered the money long before the government's rejection of the gift went public. And if she, and some allies, didn't go public with the government's denial of the donation, then we wouldn't be celebrating Wednesday's announcement.

It's a testament to what can happen when things are done the right way.

A lot of people spent a lot of time lobbying the government on this issue, and preparing the business case for the MRI.

In the not too distant future, we'll have an MRI scanner at St. Joseph's Hospital. People in Gainsborough won't have to travel three hours to Regina to get to their appointments.

Not only will it help people in the southeast, but this will cut down on MRI wait times elsewhere.

Walkom said she was donating the $2 million in memory of her late husband Grant, and as a way to say thank you to the people of the southeast for the support they showed her family and their business, Hank's Maintenance, over the years. But we should all say thank you to Walkom and her supporters for making this happen.