Patients with an “urgent” MRI status can wait up to 16 weeks at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital. Those classified as “elective” usually wait up to 51 weeks for their image. Have these stats improved since the province implemented a four-year MRI strategy in the late fall of 2015? See story below.

Have MRI wait times improved at KBRH?

Has extra funding found its way to the regional hospital and freed up the mobile MRI department in the Trail facility?

Wait times and exam volume of a certain diagnostic test called an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) were on the table at the recent hospital district meeting.

Patients with an “urgent” MRI status can wait up to 16 weeks at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital. Those classified as “elective” usually wait up to 51 weeks for their image.

Four months or up to one year is a long wait for a person living with an undiagnosed illness or limited by a physical ailment that could be better treated with this type of scan.

An MRI is a safe and painless test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the body’s organs and structures the scans are used to diagnose a number of medical conditions, including abnormalities of the brain, as well as tumours, cysts and soft tissue injuries.

So the question becomes, “have MRI wait times improved or the number of MRI scans increased at KBRH since November 2015?”

That was when the province announced a four-year $20 million strategy to help meet the high demand for MRIs across British Columbia.

Turns out, the answer is, “Yes.”

The Trail Times reached out to Interior Health to ask if extra funding found its way to the regional hospital and freed up the mobile MRI department in the Trail facility.

“Wait times for an MRI exam at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital are currently approximately 16 weeks for an urgent and 51 weeks for an elective exam,” confirmed Scott Edmonstone, diagnostic imaging director for the Kootenays. “We do recognize wait times can be frustrating for patients and their physicians. Interior Health continues to look at ways to increase access to this service across the health authority.”

We are doing more MRIs in Trail than ever before, Edmonstone said.

“The provincial MRI strategy allowed us to increase MRI exams by 24 per cent at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in 2015/16, the highest percentage increase of any IH MRI site,” he explained.

An additional 291 exams were performed in 2015/16, completing 1,529 MRIs compared to 1,238 the year previous.

“We were able to make increases in Trail by reducing the travel schedule of the mobile MRI unit between sites,” Edmonstone noted. “Before, we had a full day for travel, now we are doing exams for the first half of the transfer day before the mobile MRI unit hits the road.”

He says KBRH is currently maximizing the use of a mobile MRI unit.

“However, a new permanent MRI at East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook is scheduled to be operational in 2018, which will free up more time for the mobile MRI unit to serve other areas of IH, including the Kootenay Boundary,” Edmonstone concluded. “Additional MRI technologist staff at KBRH are being trained in preparation for this additional time, although we haven’t determined the exact increase and schedule yet.”

Under the provincial MRI strategy, Interior Health completed 17,528 MRIs last year, compared to 16,116 the year previous.

The Kootenay Boundary MRI service continues to be supported by the mobile unit one week in four. When not at KBRH, the mobile MRI spends one week in Cranbrook and two weeks in Penticton.