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Estevan MRI advocate and donor looks forward to project's completion

Walkom said an MRI at St. Joseph's Hospital will reduce travel times for those in the southeast, and reduce wait times for those elsewhere.
Elaine Walkom remains committed to seeing an MRI in Estevan.

ESTEVAN - Elaine Walkom said she was "pleasantly surprised" to hear St. Joseph's Hospital in Estevan has been given the green light to proceed with fundraising to bring an MRI scanner.

Walkom has been a strong proponent of the project. When it became public last September that the Ministry of Health had rejected her proposed donation of $2 million, which would have covered the cost of the scanner and the training of two technicians, it generated criticism from across the province.

Walkom wanted the donation to be in memory of her late husband Grant, as a way to thank the community for supporting the Walkom family business, Hank's Maintenance, over the years.

In the past six months, there were meetings involving Walkom, the provincial government, St. Joseph's Hospital and its foundation, Emmanuel Health and other individuals and entities.

While there is no money in this year's budget for the MRI scanner, the government has given its blessing to start fundraising. The St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation has committed to raise the expected $6.5 million cost of the project, with the $2 million head start thanks to Walkom.

"I had thought there might be a little resistance, and we actually were gearing up a little for that," Walkom said in an interview with the Mercury and SASKTODAY.

Dean Martens of Alameda, who has also been an advocate for the project, has been "such a force", Walkom said.

She believes the scanner at St. Joe's will help so many people. 

"Going for an MRI is stressful to start out with, but this takes some of the stress out of it, knowing you don't have to drive for two or three hours, and it's going to take a big burden off the province, too, having one extra one in our area," she said.

An MRI in Estevan will help reduce wait times elsewhere in the province, she said.

Walkom wishes the project could happen next week, but she knows that's not realistic. She looks forward to seeing the renovations begin at St. Joseph's Hospital, and to when the project is completed.

Since the government gave its blessing, she has had a lot of messages thanking her for her efforts and congratulating her.

Walkom said she will continue to support and advocate for the project. She also expects to meet with corporate donors.

"Estevan and area is usually very generous with this sort of thing … and I sure hope they are. Any individual donation towards it is a big help for everybody. A little adds up a lot when there's a lot of people contributing," said Walkom.

She has remained in contact with Emmanuel Health, St. Joseph's Hospital and Estevan MLA Lori Carr. People have been eager to speak with her about the project everywhere she has gone during the past six months.

"You can tell the interest is really up front," she said.  

Walkom encouraged people to keep pushing and to never give up if they want to get things done, and to talk to elected officials.