Five local hospital foundations have begun raising money to buy a new, faster, more efficient MRI machine to replace the Owen Sound hospital’s 14-year-old scanner.
Amy McKinnon, executive director of the Owen Sound Regional Hospital Foundation, said the goal is to collect $4.7 million in community donations to purchase and install the machine in the first half of 2019.
“Typically an MRI lasts about 10 to 12 years so the staff here have done amazing in extending the lifetime of our MRI for so long. But right now we’re at the point where it’s difficult to get service, difficult to get replacement parts,” she said in an interview Tuesday at the Owen Sound hospital.
“And technology moves along. You’ll hear a lot of people talk about using the analogy of your cell phone – if you think of the cell phone you used 14 years ago and the one you use today, technology’s just grown that much.”
The current magnetic resonance imaging machine arrived at Grey Bruce Health Services’ Owen Sound hospital in July 2004.
It was purchased with funds raised during an $8.3-million community campaign. The money also financed hospital renovations to house the MRI, related computer equipment and a picture archive and communication system, which allows doctors at all hospitals in Grey-Bruce to view tests the moment they are complete.
The machine is now used about 11,000 times annually, mostly to take images of the head, spine, knees, shoulders, pelvis, abdomen, breasts, ankles, hips, wrists and hands.
GBHS says the MRI system is reaching the end of its lifespan and must be replaced.
All five GBHS health services foundations – Owen Sound Regional, Saugeen Memorial, Meaford, Centre Grey and Bruce Peninsula – are working together on the new MRI campaign.
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.
On Tuesday, GBHS and Owen Sound hospital foundation officials received a $10,000 cheque from McDougall Energy for the campaign.
McKinnon said the money is one of the first major donations for the fundraising drive.
The campaign will be formally launched in November, she said, although the foundations are already accepting donations online at www.gbhsmri.ca.
She said the new campaign will be different from the one in 2004.
“It’s more urgent than before. We have a really short timeline to engage in the community to raise the $4.7 million,” she said.
The state-of-the-art MRI machine 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.
“It’s an essential part of peoples’ health care services that we provide here at GBHS and it’s essential to our recruitment of new physicians to the area. An MRI is a key diagnostic tool so we need to have one here,” McKinnon said.
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.