Scanner site yet to be chosen

21:17, Aug 19 2014

A radiology company wanting to bring MRI services to Blenheim is confident a deal will be done soon and a machine installed by the end of the year.

Pacific Radiology Group are in negotiations with Nelson Marlborough District Health Board to install the state-of-the-art imaging service at their own expense.

Talks have focused on the location of the machine but a final decision has not been made.

Possible sites include a purpose-built addition to the radiology department at Wairau Hospital or a portable building off the hospital campus in Blenheim.

Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the board had made an MRI in Marlborough a priority after an imaging review completed earlier this year said Nelson Marlborough people had a lower level of access to MRI than other areas of the country.

Fleming said the Pacific Radiology Group had proposed a downtown location for an MRI scanner in Blenheim.


"This would be an opportunity missed as having it on-site at Wairau Hospital gives a lot more flexibility and it could then be used for acute emergency patients," Fleming said.

An MRI scanner on the Wairau Hospital site would provide better access for both public and private patients as well as access for emergency patients.

"We have to get the right solution for Marlborough, not just the expedient solution."

A decision on the location of the MRI is likely at the end of September.

The board has one MRI in Nelson, which is a joint venture with Nelson Radiology Limited, which is operated by Pacific Radiology.

Pacific Radiology chief executive Lance Lawler said the service had been buckling under patient demand and struggled to meet Ministry of Health waiting targets.

An MRI scanner in Blenheim would cut the number of patients travelling to Nelson, he said.

The idea was first mooted two years ago but the health board was in the middle of a financial crisis.

"The DHB is in more of a comfortable position now in respect of its cash flow," Lawler said.

Patients in Marlborough deserved improved access to diagnostic services, he said.

"Equity of access has become a huge point for the board. Blenheim is quite a long way from Nelson and for the unwell, it is quite a rough road to travel.

"Geographically the top of the south is one of the largest DHBs. A second MRI in Blenheim would reduce the workload in Nelson which has struggled to meet the scanning targets set by the Ministry of Health."

MRI scanners take three-dimensional images of soft tissue and can be used to examine problems such as head injuries, tumours, back problems and painful joints.

Lawler said the MRI machine would run days, evenings and weekends.

"I am confident we will have an MRI by the end of the year. We may be held up if a site requires work done to get it suitable for putting an MRI in. These issues are solvable. We are working with the DHB to see the best solution for their needs and the needs of patients."

The Marlborough Express