MRI service announced for upper Island, including Comox Valley

Mobile MRI service is expected by next spring or summer at St. Joseph's General Hospital in Comox.

DIRECTOR OF MEDICAL imaging for VIHA Dr. John Mathieson (left) and Comox Valley MLA Don McRae announced Thursday a new mobile MRI service to be established in central and northern Vancouver Island.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority has announced it will establish a mobile MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) service by next spring or summer at St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox, and in Campbell River, Port Alberni and Duncan. The service will be located on specially designed pads in each of these areas, operating 50 weeks per year with two weeks designated for service and maintenance.”This is something that I’ve been pushing hard for all the six years that I’ve been the medical director in VIHA,” Dr. John Mathieson said at a Thursday announcement at St. Joe’s. “From a patient care point of view, I and my colleagues feel very strongly that wherever you live you should expect to have the same quality of medical service.”Comox Valley MLA Don McRae said northern and central Island residents will no longer need to travel to Nanaimo, Victoria or Vancouver once the new service is implemented. “Residents in the north Island know that a beautiful August day is not when the accidents occur or when you need those appointments,” McRae said. “It often is in the dark, January winters. To have that opportunity to drive in a much safer environment, a much shorter environment, is unbelievable.”Upwards of 3,800 MRI scans are planned to be performed by the mobile scanner, amounting to 16.5 per cent of the 23,000 MRIs provided each year in the region. The volumes and schedule in each community will be determined based on population size and historical MRI use.”Cross-sectional imaging, including MRI, CT and ultrasound, have completely changed the practice of medicine,” Mathieson said. “Back in my father’s day, if anyone wanted to know what was wrong if you were sick, they had to open you up…That doesn’t happen any more. MRI has become an amazing tool. The development and technology has been truly astonishing.”Without the opportunity to practice in the field of MRI, Mathieson said it is difficult to attract radiologists to Vancouver Island. “We continue to believe that MRI is an underused service and needs to be expanded, and I’m glad there’s so many people willing to listen,” he said. In the coming weeks, VIHA will discuss funding arrangements with regional hospital districts that have expressed interest in bringing mobile MRI services to their communities.reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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