Access to MRIs Improved for Saskatchewan People

Oct 20, 2016

Since private-pay magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) services began in February 2016, more than 1,800 patients are benefiting from a private MRI scan, at no cost to the public health system. This volume equals an additional MRI machine operating five hours per day, seven days per week, at a total cost that would have exceeded $835,000 if the scans had been billed to the public system.

“As demand for MRI services continues to increase, our government has provided choice and added capacity for patients seeking a timely MRI in our province,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said.

From February 29 to September 30 of this year, 943 private MRI scans were performed including individual patients who chose to pay for a scan and scans requested by organizations such as the Saskatchewan Roughriders or Workers’ Compensation Board. An additional 757 patients from the public health system’s MRI wait list received an MRI at no additional cost, with another 186 scans in the process of being scheduled.

The Patient Choice Medical Imaging Act was introduced in June to expand private-pay services to include computed tomography (CT) scans. Following passage of the Act and the establishment of regulations, the legislative framework will be in place whereby private-pay CT services could be offered in the same way as private-pay MRI services.

Licensed facilities that conduct a privately-paid scan will be required to provide a second scan of similar complexity to an individual on the public wait list, at no cost to that individual or the health system. A physician referral is required.

“Our government continues to invest in the public system to support our goal of providing timely and high quality medical imaging services to Saskatchewan people at the same time as private-pay MRI services are growing,” Reiter said. “The recent expansion of MRI service to Moose Jaw and the implementation of private-pay MRI services are contributing to a reduction in the number of patients waiting in southern Saskatchewan.”

Between March 31, 2016 and July 31, 2016, the number of patients waiting for public MRI services at public provincial/regional sites (Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw) decreased from 6,912 to 6,181.

Since 2007-08, public MRI capacity has more than doubled from approximately 15,700 to 33,500 patients, and health system spending on medical imaging has increased by 70 per cent to $143 million. With the addition of the new MRI at the Dr. F.H. Wigmore Hospital in Moose Jaw in 2016, there are now 10 public MRI scanners in Saskatchewan.

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