MRI delays a growing concern

The SPCS has been advocating with Interior Health for over two years for increased MRI access for citizens in the Kootenay-Boundary region.

The Society for the Protection and Care of Seniors, SPCS (formerly the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Seniors) has been advocating with Interior Health for over two years for increased MRI access for citizens in the Kootenay-Boundary region. A great deal of frustration has been expressed within our community regarding the lengthy wait list for routine MRI’s at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital.

The most recent wait list statistics as of November 2013 show an average wait time of 38 weeks for routine MRI at KBRH compared to 28 weeks in Cranbrook, 30 weeks in Kamloops, 24 weeks in Penticton and 22 weeks in Kelowna.

The mobile MRI that comes to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital for one week out of every four weeks, is shared with Penticton and Cranbrook. Cranbrook has the mobile MRI for one week out of every four and Penticton has it for two weeks out of every four. When the scanner is at KBRH, it is operated to its maximum capacity.

For those who may not recall, the existing MRI scanner was purchased through a joint fund-raising campaign from 2002 to 2004 involving the Health Care Foundations for Trail, Cranbrook and Penticton with each community raising $375,000 for a total of $1,125,000. (This information is available through the KBRH Health Foundation.)

The SPCS has had the opportunity, through its involvement with Connected Communities, to meet with senior administration from Interior Health, Kootenay-Boundary region, to discuss common concerns related to how health care services are delivered to our respective communities.  These meetings are held twice a year. MRI access has been on the agenda for these meetings with Interior Health for two years. Though the IH representatives indicate an understanding of our concern, there has been little headway made in dealing with this situation and with the ongoing lengthy wait list. Rather, Connected Communities, particularly SPCS, are told we should lobby the B.C. Ministry of Health expressing our concern and the need for more MRI access time at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, as well as for the purchase of additional MRI scanners for all of Interior Health.

The Society for the Protection and Care of Seniors is eager to lobby for enhanced and expanded MRI services; however, to do so SPCS requires up-to-date statistical information on wait list times to back up our concerns re: the lengthy wait times experienced for a routine MRI.

Interior Health has failed repeatedly to provide the necessary wait list statistics required even though they have previously said that they would share this information. The SPCS is requesting statistical numbers only and have not requested the release of any confidential or personal information. Currently, similar statistical data for hip and knee replacements is available on the B.C. Government website.

Recently, the Connected Communities representatives learned that the Regional Hospital Board has approved a plan to upgrade the existing mobile MRI scanner. The plan is for the three Regional Hospital Boards to contribute a total of $495,000.00 ($123,840 from K.B.Region and Cranbrook and $247, 680.00 from Penticton.) It is hoped this will extend the life of the current MRI for another 8 to 10 years. The continual transport is hard on the MRI scanner. The average lifespan of a mobile MRI scanner and a stationary MRI scanner is 10 years. Will this upgrade, in fact, prolong the use of the existing MRI scanner? Will this plan do anything to reduce the current unacceptable wait times for an MRI at KBRH?

If you, or someone you know, has experienced  delay in obtaining an MRI scan to the detriment of receiving needed health care services in a timely manner, we encourage you to voice your concerns to Interior Health, to your MLA and to the Minister of Health, the Honourable Terry Lakes. Together we can make a difference!

Candace Parrilla

Chair of SPCS