No MRI scanner for Blenheim

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 14:07 26/02/2013

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A proposed MRI unit at Wairau Hospital in Blenheim was rejected by the district health board because of the cost.

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting longer than six weeks for an MRI scan has increased by 50 per cent in six months.

There are 224 people in Marlborough and Nelson waiting longer than six weeks for their scan compared to 147 in September. There are 288 people waiting in total.

The Ministry of Health introduced new guidelines for all district health boards last July to have patients put through the MRI system within 42 days.

The guidelines require health boards to be 75 per cent compliant by the end of June this year as part of a three-year improvement plan.

In September, the board was about 25 per cent compliant.

It ranked third or fourth last in New Zealand for its MRI service.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the board received a proposal from a private radiology company to set up an MRI unit at the Churchill Private Hospital wing of Wairau Hospital.

Mr Fleming said the offer, from the Pacific Radiology Group in Wellington, was rejected last month because of the board's financial position - an estimated $3 million deficit for the end of this financial year. The board was looking at how all imaging services across the top of the South Island were provided and would engage providers in a contestable process if a decision was made to proceed with installing an MRI unit at Wairau, he said.

Their existing MRI service, at Nelson Hospital and shared with Nelson Radiology, closed only on statutory holidays over Christmas and New Year to try to reduce the waiting list.

The board was looking to extend its hours of operation to meet increasing demand, Mr Fleming said.

Pacific Radiology chief executive Lance Lawler said their proposal to operate an MRI unit in Blenheim came about through talks with Wairau Hospital clinicians.

"They are desperate for a machine closer to home for their patients," Mr Lawler said.

"Eventually there will be an MRI scanner at Wairau Hospital, it's just a matter of who will finance and operate it."

Churchill Private Hospital Trust general manager Nicki Bennett declined to comment.

Kaikoura MP Colin King said he had visited the new imaging room at the Churchill Private Hospital, scheduled to open in April.

It presented an opportunity to have a MRI service in Blenheim, he said.

"I've been into that room. It's lead-lined and ready to go."

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- The Marlborough Express

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