Patients in Vernon and throughout the North Okanagan will no longer have to travel to Kelowna or Kamloops for an MRI scan.
The Vernon Jubilee Hospital has been testing out its state-of-the-art MRI machine since it arrived in early September, and on Friday, the machine became fully operational.
“It’s a cutting edge MRI and it can do a lot of exams in significantly less time than traditional scanners, and it’s also larger than some of the other magnets in the area,” says Dr. Adam Weathermon, head of radiology at the Vernon hospital.
According to Weathermon, the machine is a Siemens 1.5T Sola MRI, and it’s just the fourth one to be installed in Canada. Between the machine itself and the MRI suite it lives in, the cost of the project was around $7 million.
Penticton also has an MRI that’s just become fully operational as part of its tower expansion, in place of a mobile machine that came to its hospital on a rotating basis.
With the new high-speed scanner, the hope is that wait times for MRI scans will decrease in the area.
“The MRI in Kelowna has been very busy and so wait times have been a problem,” says Weathermon. “I think the additions of a permanent new MRI in Penticton and Vernon is really going to improve access, and that means shorter wait times for patients.”
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, half of the patients in B.C. who are in need of a scan wait an average of 44 days, while the average wait time for patients in the 90th percentile is 214 days.
While the machine only became fully operational on Friday, it’s been scanning between 10 and 15 patients a day over its month-long training period.
“The technologists were getting used to the machine and just basically fine tuning everything, but we’re doing real scans and it’s been going very well so far,” says Weathermon.
It’s a significant piece of equipment to add to a radiologist’s toolkit to say the least, and Weathermon is excited to be able to provide patients with the treatment they need without having to travel far.
“It really gives the doctors here the tools that they need when they have patients who need evaluations of their joints, their brain, their spine, their cancer,” he said. “So it’s very important for us.”