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In Canada, furor over scrapped mobile MRIs

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | August 12, 2011
Local Canadian health officials are having second thoughts about scrapping a planned fleet of mobile MRIs, as they face public backlash amid reports that the service would be cheaper than originally thought.

Back in April, the health authority on Vancouver Island, a massive island just off Canada's west coast in British Columbia, put out a proposal to hire a mobile MRI service to help reduce wait times for scans, according to a Canada.com write-up. The Vancouver Island Health Authority hoped a 5-year mobile service contract could add 2,500 scans a year. The service would move around three or four locations on the island a couple times a month.

But when they got the bids, the health authorities balked at the price, saying the scans would cost more than $600 each with a mobile service. At one of the four MRIs currently on the island, the scans cost about $250. Instead of the mobiles, the authority decided it would add about 1,000 more scans to this year's docket, increasing it to 22,764 from 21,740 in 2010, according to Canada.com.
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The authorities also said that wait times already were half what they were last year, with most patients now waiting about 10-16 weeks for a (non-emergency) scan.

But the move to scrap the plans brought an outcry, especially when it came to light that the costs might be half the announced estimates. One of the service bidders said the cost for a mobile scan would be between $300-$350, according to reports.

"Could someone reviewing the bid somehow have gotten their numbers mixed up?" Courier-Island said in an editorial Friday. "That is worrisome and speaks of a system that is in real need of fixing."

"We can only hope VIHA, in revisiting the mobile MRI service, does so with more attention to detail and more open and honest accounting of the entire process," the editorial said.

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