DHB to examine options for MRIs
The region's health boss expects a review of diagnostic services in Marlborough and Nelson to highlight a need for better access to MRI scans.
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said that could result in the board needing to acquire a new MRI machine, which he promised would be based in Blenheim.
However, a new machine would require extra funding, Mr Fleming said.
Where that funding might come from, he had "no idea at this stage".
There were other service models the board could explore though, including a private enterprise or community contributions, he said.
The review of imaging services across the top of the South was expected to be completed before the end of the year.
"We will explore all those options at that time," he said. "Or there might be interim steps to increase access to MRI in Nelson . . . running it for longer hours or at the weekend. But I want to reassure people this would be a short-term solution. We are not going to enhance access to MRI and put a second machine in Nelson."
Mr Fleming's August report to the board showed the number of people waiting longer than the national guidelines for a MRI scan in the region had gone up.
There were 325 patients waiting longer than 42 days for their scan at the end of July, up from 321 in June.
A commercial radiology group had proposed to install a MRI machine in Blenheim at their own expense, Mr Fleming said.
The board would have to pay to use the scanner, he said.
Another option might be to look at existing resources and reduce the number of CT scans being carried out.
The number of people waiting for CT scans had dropped from 71 to 61, according to Mr Fleming's August report.
The board's proposed capital budget for 2013-14 includes a new $1m CT scanner for Nelson Hospital but no MRI machine. Another $1m CT scanner is planned for Wairau Hospital in 2014-15.
The existing CT scanners had come to the end of their life and needed replaced, Mr Fleming said.
"If the review indicates that we go ahead for a MRI and we buy two CT scanners, we could get a sharper price. Even if we ask for one to be delivered this February and another next February, companies will recognise the value of business."
The lease on the Nelson MRI machine was about to expire as well, Mr Fleming said.
South Canterbury sets example
A $3 million MRI building at Timaru Hospital funded by the South Canterbury community opened in March, says Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming.
A charitable trust was set up by the community to raise enough money for the project, Mr Fleming said.
The trust leased the machine to the South Canterbury District Health Board and a commercial radiology outfit, the Pacific Radiology Group, he said.
"They pay a lease payment to the charitable trust so that when the MRI [machine] comes to the end of its life, the trust has enough money to buy another one," Mr Fleming said. "That means the community won't be asked to contribute to a MRI every 10 years."
Pacific Radiology Group was the parent company of Nelson Radiology Ltd, which operated a MRI scanner at Nelson Hospital's radiology department along with the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.
The board was nowhere near the stage of looking into charitable trusts to buy a MRI scanner, he said.
Mr Fleming was the chief executive of South Canterbury District Health Board before moving to the top of the south.
The Ministry of Health has started monitoring all health board waiting lists for CT and MRI to establish if they can meet the new criteria of triaging, having an appointment and reporting on the examination within 42 days for all community and outpatient referrals. A new ministry initiative to support health boards with reducing waiting times for diagnostics has started.
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