MRI machine coming to Palmerston and District Hospital

Officials hope to have machine up and running within three years

PALMERSTON – A new MRI machine is coming to Palmerston and District Hospital, which officials say will help reduce wait times, eliminate the need to travel for the service and alleviate pressure on other hospitals.

“We are thrilled with the announcement of new MRI operational funding for North Wellington Health Care (NWHC) and would like to thank the [province] for their support,” stated Angela Stanley, CEO and president of NWHC, in a Dec. 15 press release.

“This new program will allow us to support our region to access care close to home, in a timely fashion.”

NWHC announced the plan for a new MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine in Palmerston – the first in Wellington County – three days after a provincial funding announcement.

The province is providing about $20 million for the operating costs of 27 MRI machines across Ontario, health minister Sylvia Jones announced on Dec. 12.

Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae explained NWHC would receive $200,200 in 2022-23 and $800,800 the following year.

Hospital officials expect annual funding to total about $800,000 thereafter.

That funding covers wages for technologists and support services, as well as supplies, electricity and more. 

The cost of purchasing the machines, over $1 million each, plus construction costs, is left to individual hospitals – in this case with the support of the Palmerston and District Hospital Foundation.

We will be working closely with the foundation in the next few weeks to develop a more comprehensive budget for this project,” Stanley stated in an email to the Advertiser.

Will take years

NWHC officials hope to have the machine up and running within three years, Stanley explained. 

It will be housed in “shell space” completed at the Palmerston hospital in November 2020 and the cost of retrofitting the space also falls on the hospital, through the hospital foundation.

“We will rely on the generosity of our local donors, and look further into the broader catchment area for support of this exciting new regional service,” stated Earl Campbell, chair of the foundation board, in the press release.

Ontario Health data shows just 36 per cent of patients have MRI scans within the target time, which varies depending on priority.

Patients who should receive a less urgent scan within 28 days have an average wait time of 77 days, provincial data indicates.

In Wellington County, where many patients travel to Guelph, Kitchener and Cambridge to get an MRI, the wait time is closer to 65 days.

Why Palmerston?

Palmerston was chosen to receive operational funding by provincial officials following a process initiated in December 2021, when the province asked hospitals to submit a business case for the funding.

Stanley told the Advertiser the Palmerston hospital was chosen due to the “significant gap of service for rural residents of southwestern Ontario,” but also because it had the space for it and a hospital foundation with the ability to support the project.

She added the Palmerston business case was the only one submitted by the Wellington Health Care Alliance, which also operates Groves hospital in Aboyne and Louise Marshall Hospital in Mount Forest.

“After analysis … the decision was made that [Palmerston] was the most appropriate place to house the MRI,” Stanley stated.

‘Great news’ for region

Dale Small, NWHC board chair, called the funding announcement great news for all hospitals in the county.

“We would like to thank the Palmerston and District Hospital Foundation for their support for the capital funding required for this project and look forward to working with them and communities to bring this much needed service to our region,” stated Small in a press release.

Nearby, Guelph General Hospital and the Listowel Wingham Hospitals Alliance will also receive MRI operating funding from the province.

“This is great news for our local communities and rural hospitals,” Rae stated in his release.

“It means local community members will be able to receive their necessary and critical treatment faster and closer to home.”