Vernon MRI announcement for 2018 has nothing to do with election 2017: MLA Foster - InfoNews

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Vernon MRI announcement for 2018 has nothing to do with election 2017: MLA Foster

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February 10, 2017 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - If you thought the B.C. Liberals’ announcement this week about a new MRI machine coming to Vernon Jubilee Hospital in 2018 smelled like a publicity stunt, you’d be dead wrong, according to Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster.

Vernon was one of several communities around B.C. identified as the lucky recipient of a new MRI machine in a news release issued Thursday by the provincial government.

The release said Vernon’s MRI is expected to be in place by 2018.

Foster rejects the notion that the announcement was intentionally made now — three months prior to the provincial election and well before the actual unveiling of the machine — to benefit the party.

“People can read anything they want into it. I know I’ve been working on this for a while with the hospital,” Foster says.

The NDP has not responded to a phone call on the subject.

Foster says the new equipment is more than just a promise — it’s in the budget and is officially going ahead. It’s expected to cost roughly $5 million, but the actual price won’t be known until it is purchased.

The reason the MRI might not be ready until 2018, Foster says, is because of logistics.

“The process is starting right away in the next few weeks. (There has) to be space made available, the renovations have to be done…. The machine has to be purchased and delivered,” Foster says.

It’s possible the machine will be up and running in 2017, but Foster says the government is being conservative with the opening date.

“You don’t want to say we’ll have it done in August and run into construction issues and not have it done,” Foster says.

Vernon Jubilee Hospital does not currently have an MRI machine, and patients have to travel roughly 50 kms to the nearest one in Kelowna.

“It’s an inconvenience for people,” Foster says.

The new machine might also help to attract top notch surgeons to Vernon, Foster says.

He says the money for the MRI is coming out of the government’s budget surplus, and is not being drawn from Interior Health’s existing operating funds.

“There’s no juggling for them whatsoever,” Foster says.

In the news release issued by the province, Interior Health’s North Okanagan health services administrator, Richard Harding, says the MRI is great news for the hospital and its patients.

"The engagement, support and dedication of our Vernon physicians, staff and partners in their advocacy for MRI services at Vernon Jubilee to improve the delivery of patient care cannot be understated,” Harding says.

According to the release, the B.C. government has acquired 16 new MRI scanners for hospitals over the past 10 years, bringing the number of MRI’s done in the public system over 151,000 in 2015/2016, compared to 67,030 in 2004/2005.

This week’s announcement is part of a government strategy unveiled in 2015 to ramp up the number of MRI scans in B.C. by 65,000 annually. The target is to reach that goal by 2019.

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