Waiting up to 36 weeks for an MRI scan is better than some provinces, but it's still too long for B.C. patients, and that wait should begin to get shorter by the new year.
Premier Christy Clark and Health Minister Terry Lake announced Wednesday that with economic performance improving in the province, funds are available to extend operating hours for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines in hospitals and clinics.
The extra scans should start to show up by the end of the year, and once the increase reaches $20 million a year in 2019, there should be 45 per cent more procedures done than the current rate.
Lake said additional evening and weekend operating hours should be in effect in some regions before Christmas. Where private clinics are available, the health authorities may contract work while they're recruiting more specialists for hospitals.
Dr. Stuart Silver, acting medical director for medical imaging at Island Health, said MRI is used for conditions including joint aches and pains to heart conditions to brain tumours.
"The information we get can be a game changer in many cases," Silver said. "We have patients who are booked for surgery who have an MRI, and the MRI suggests that they shouldn't have surgery. Conversely we have people where surgery is not considered, and we do the MRI and realize that that is the way to go."
Lake said he wishes the ministry had acted sooner on what has been a long-standing concern of doctors and health authorities.
"The radiologists have certainly been letting us know about it," he said.