MRI drive seeks Grey’s help
County council will consider request for $400,000 over two years during budget sessions
The organizations raising money to buy and install a new state-ofthe-art MRI machine at the Owen Sound hospital have already collected more than $1 million in pledges and cash towards their $4.7-million campaign goal.
“We’re on the way to getting a new MRI, so hopefully it will happen in the spring of 2019,” Amy McKinnon, executive director of the Owen Sound Regional Hospital Foundation, told Grey County council during a committee of the whole meeting Thursday.
Grey County was asked at the meeting to contribute $400,000 over two years toward the fundraising drive. Bruce County council received the same request last week.
Both councils are planning to discuss the appeals during budget deliberations for 2019.
All five Grey Bruce Health Services hospital foundations – Owen Sound, Saugeen Memorial, Meaford, Centre Grey and Bruce Peninsula – are working together to raise the money for the MRI machine to replace the 14-year-old scanner at the Owen Sound site.
McKinnon said the foundations are planning to launch the public campaign next week. That’s when the community, including local businesses and residents, will be formally asked to contribute.
McKinnon said it will cost about $2.7 million to purchase the replacement machine, $1.5 million to finance renovations for the new equipment, $300,000 to refurbish current equipment and $200,000 for fundraising expenses.
Dr. Colin McIver, GBHS’s chief of medical imaging, said the hospital corporation’s current MRI machine – purchased with money from an $8.3-million community fundraising campaign in 2004 – is one of the oldest in Canada.
It is used about 11,000 times annually, mostly to take images of the head, spine, knees, shoulders, pelvis, abdomen, breasts, ankles, hips, wrists and hands.
Although the machine’s magnet is still in good condition, the mechanical components of the MRI have reached the end of their lives, he said. The hospital is finding it more and more difficult to find replacement parts, he added.
“It’s like an old car where the engine block is good, but not much else is on the car,” he said.
“We think that unless we replace the MRI in a relatively timely fashion, there’s going to be a catastrophic failure and we’ll be without MRI services.”
He said the current machine can no longer accommodate people who are 300 pounds or more, which forces “a lot” of patients to travel to other cities like London, Hamilton or Kitchener-Waterloo to receive a scan.
GBHS is hoping to be able to purchase the new MRI machine in the first quarter of 2019 and have it operational by June, he said.
The new scanner will have faster imaging times – the average test will be 10 minutes shorter – which will help to reduce wait times.
It will also have a more spacious table and tunnel, feature 3-D imaging, new software for cardiac and prostate imaging and enhanced breast imaging for biopsy and detection, provide better-quality images and be more energy efficient, quiet and accurate.
GBHS says MRI machines have diagnostic capabilities for cancer, early detection of ALS and forms of dementia, stroke, coronary issues and monitoring aneurysms, diabetics and patients with blood vessel problems.
McIver said the hospital corporation has submitted a request to the Ministry of Health and Longterm Care to be able to build a second MRI suite next to the existing one, so the current machine can remain operational until the new one is ready to use.
The old machine could then be used for “low-end” scans, like for knees and ankles, he said, while the new scanner would do highend imaging.
If the request is denied, GBHS might have to rent an MRI machine for a few months to ensure there’s no downtime while the new scanner is being installed.
Grey County donated $1 million to the 2004 MRI campaign. It also contributed $1 million over five years towards the $11.4-million Hospital Campaign, which launched in 2014 and was aimed at improving cancer care at the GBHS hospitals. The county paid its final $200,000 instalment towards that drive in June.
The provincial government doesn’t provide funding for equipment at Ontario hospitals. It will, however, continue to pay for the MRI system’s operating costs, such as those related to staffing.
Donations to the MRI campaign can be made online at www. gbhsmri.ca.