New MRI going to see plenty of face time in the Cowichan Valley
Cowichanians will have shared use of the health region’s new mobile MRI unit about half the time, a health official indicated.
The new MRI unit will be shared with Comox, Port Alberni and Campbell River hospitals for 50 weeks a year, allowing two weeks maintenance.
Valley patients had 1,792 scans at magnetic resonance imaging units in Victoria and Nanaimo between 2009 and 2010, said Bob Brandt, Vancouver Island Health Authority’s medical imaging director.
“Right now, 3,814 is the number of routine MRIs now done in a year for all four communities,” Brandt noted.
“For just under two weeks of each month, the Cowichan Valley will have the scanner,” he said of the cutting-edge diagnostic tool demanded by Cowichan doctors for years.
“Obviously, patients don’t have as far to travel (for scans), but (the decision) was based on current utilization rates of an MRI,” Brandt said.
Bids for MRI prices, trucking the delicate unit, and building pad facilities at the four towns are being sought by VIHA.
“We have a good idea of costs, but until we go to tender I won’t share those costs,” he said.
VIHA brass said in July a mobile MRI unit wasn’t planned after six bids showed it would cost about $600 per scan if owned and run by private business.
But arithmetic later showed those tabs would drop to about $250 per scan if the MRI were owned by VIHA.
“That culminated in an announcement (last week),” he said.
News of the MRI’s spring arrival was cheered by the valley’s medical community last week as it will cut patient travel, and allow faster diagnosis.
The MRI will be hauled in a 78-foot, wheelchair-accessible, semi-trailer medical coach keeping the unit at precise temperatures.
“An MRI has to be kept cold at all times as its magnets operate at very high temperatures, so it needs liquid-helium cooling,” he explained, adding patient access is also key.
“It will be parked as close to each hospital as we can.”