Growing demand for MRI machine at new Portage la Prairie hospital

There are growing calls in and around Portage la Prairie, Man to include an MRI machine at the city’s new health-care facility.

More than 30 physicians who work in Portage la Prairie penned a letter to Premier Wab Kinew in April requesting an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner for the Portage Regional Health Centre (PRHC).

The $455 million health-care centre was originally announced by the former PC government in 2021, and is expected to open late next year.

The doctors said not including the machine in hospital plans is a “glaring omission” given the growing population of Portage la Prairie and neighbouring First Nations.

“Our patient population faces many health inequities, and we worry that not having the foresight to include an MRI scanner will only exacerbate these inequities, rewarding those communities that can afford private funding,” the letter said.

The letter said patients must currently travel to Winnipeg or health-care faciltiies in Brandon, Dauphin, Selkirk or Winkler for imaging services – sometimes waiting days or weeks for transfers. The doctors say this can lead to negative health outcomes and diagnosis and treatment delays.

Jeff Bereza, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Portage la Prairie, said he initially agreed with the government’s decision to omit the MRI scanner based on information from Shared Health Diagnostic Services.

In a news release Wednesday, Bereza said that information stated only about 3,000 patients from the area need MRIs each year, “which would only support about a 50 per cent usage of an MRI machine and staff.”

However, Bereza said he later learned from local doctors that number is based on completed scans – and doesn’t include missed, rescheduled, or cancelled appointments.

“What isn’t being considered is how many MRI appoints are missed due to economic and social barriers such as lack of transportation,” Bereza said.

Bereza added around 3,000 people in the area have signed a petition calling for an MRI at the Portage Regional Health Centre, and notes $5 million has been pledged by the Portage District General Hospital Foundation.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) also wants to see MRI services at PRHC. In a release, AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said the letter penned by doctors highlights the “the urgent need to address longstanding health disparities faced by First Nations in the area.”

CTV News has reached out to the health minister for comment and is awaiting a response.

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