Foundation News: MRI Focus (February 2024)

MRI – Transforming Our Regional Health Care, One Image at a Time is the new slogan for this campaign that speaks to how this equipment will enhance health care in the region.
Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC) announced in February 2023 that it will receive base funding from Ontario Health Northwest to support the operation of a new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scanner. SLMHC is responsible for all capital costs associated with construction to house the new MRI, as well as the scanner itself. As new building construction is required, the cost is estimated to be around $7 million. On December 1, 2023, the SLMHC Foundation launched a fundraising campaign to directly support the required costs associated with this project to make a locally available MRI a reality within our region.
Where We Are At with Our Funding
The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre Foundation started the campaign with $1.5 million and subsequently third-party entities have donated $130,000 (Skip to Equip), $150,000 (Darrell Morgan), $5000 (Sioux Lookout Rotary and Sioux Lookout Bombers) in addition to an approximate $65,000 from private individual donors and groups, both from our community and beyond.
To create a clear understanding and further answer questions you may have, the following is an excerpt from our sales and marketing package.
What is an MRI Scan
An MRI scan is a painless, radiation free medical imaging technique that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce very detailed images of the organs and tissues inside of the body. An MRI scan is a non-invasive way for a medical professional to examine internal organs, tissues and skeletal system. It is performed by a certified radiology technologist and the resulting high-resolution images of the inside of the body help to diagnose a variety of conditions and injury, plan treatments and assess effectiveness of a previous treatment.
An MRI does not use X-rays or other radiation and it’s the imaging test of choice when patients need frequent imaging for diagnosis or treatment monitoring, especially that of the brain. An MRI exam can take anywhere from thirty to fifty minutes but could take up to two-hours. Clients are placed inside a large, tunnel-shaped machine, that can produce loud noises during the exam when operating. Sometimes contrast agents, such as Gadolinium, may be given to a client intravenously to aid in diagnosis and/or the procedure.
An MRI uses magnets, radio waves and a computer to create images of the inside of your body, whereas computed tomography (CT) uses X-rays and computers.
Healthcare providers often prefer to use MRI scans instead of CT scans to look at the non-bony parts or soft tissues inside your body. MRI scans are also considered safer since they don’t use the damaging ionizing radiation of X-rays. MRI scans also take much clearer pictures of your brain, spinal cord, nerves, muscles, ligaments and tendons than regular X-rays and CT scans.
Where are Services Currently Available
Currently, MRI services for this area are only available in Thunder Bay, ON (393 km from Sioux Lookout) and Winnipeg, MB (449 km from Sioux Lookout). Referrals for any MRI procedure for both the primary catchment area (Sioux Lookout and 31 surrounding communities including many First Nations Communities accessible only by air) and secondary catchment area (Dryden, Ignace, Machin, Eagle Lake, Vermillion Bay, Wabigoon Lake and Red Lake) are sent to one of these two locations with Thunder Bay being the primary referral location. This means that for an approximate population of over 50,000 people, unfortunate but realistic factors such as lack of access to transport due to remote locations, long travel distances in various and sometimes treacherous climate/road conditions, little or no personal support options, disruption of continuity of care, personal cost or financial burden, time required from work or home and other contributing factors make this current scenario and the access to health care inequitable for much of our Northwestern Ontario population. MRI scans completed for patients from the communities listed above, account for approximately 10% of all scans completed in Thunder Bay alone. Current wait times for a scan are already longer than the Ministry of Health (MOH) target of 10 days for semi-urgent MRIs and 28 days for non-urgent MRIs and only increasing as this type of service is becoming a core health care diagnostic modality in patient care.

Why is There Need for An MRI in Sioux Lookout
MRI Services is becoming a core health care diagnostic modality and improves patient outcomes due to more accurate and timelier diagnosis, and therefore treatment, and improved outcomes for patients. MRI services will compliment our other diagnostic services such as CT, Ultrasound, Mammography and X-Ray. The addition of an MRI to our already high functioning hospital will enable the necessary step forward to complete the comprehensive care in our region that those living here deserve. An MRI will further aid our indigenous communities who rely on the health care as they navigate the many health care hurdles that they sometimes confront, including the need for their culture to be understood, acknowledged, supported and respected during their time of care.
Local access to MRI diagnostic services will improve patient quality of care in this area (primary and secondary catchment areas listed above) of Northwestern Ontario along with patient safety and experience. Having local access will improve wait times for patients in our proposed service areas, as well as reducing demand on the MRI units operating in Thunder Bay by approximately 10%. Implementation locally will also reduce the need for transfers therefore further reducing system strain on nursing escorts and paramedic resources. A unit in Sioux Lookout offers an opportunity to support the Dryden Ortho program for hip and knee surgeries by providing these much-needed MRI scans closer to home.
In order to continue to attract specialist physicians such as general surgeons and radiologists to Sioux Lookout it is apparent that we need to have this service available locally. As a hospital, we require these specialists to maintain the scope of services and individual care that are a current source of pride within Sioux Lookout’s remote hospital. Lack of proper Diagnostic Imaging tools will limit the ability to provide the high volume of patients, both the pre-emptive care and emergency care that are today’s reality.
Lastly and most importantly, the people of our area of Northwestern Ontario deserve a state-of-the-art diagnostic service regardless of the remote challenges of this area. Travel and having multiple visits to a much bigger urban centre is stressful for our patients but by providing this MRI service locally, we will be able to treat patients more thoroughly, in a timelier manner, in an environment closer to home to encourage comfort. Our vision at SLMHC is to be the Centre of Excellence in First Nations and northern health care by working together to improve the health status of individuals, families and communities now and for generation to come. An MRI at SLMHC would work toward this vision by creating more efficient access to safer and essential imaging, decreased time away from community and family, and decreased financial burden, which ultimately will improve the health status and outcomes of our current and potential new patients here in remote Northwestern Ontario.”
The Next Step
The Foundation is now putting “boots on the ground” and moving forward approaching businesses – local and regional, individuals and organizations to raise the necessary capital.  How can you help in making the MRI a reality?  Please consider a general gift, a monthly gift, in honour of or in memory of gift, host a fundraising event, planned gifts with the Foundation as the beneficiary of stocks, estate or life insurance, leaving a legacy by supporting our community and making a difference.
Please contact Melissa at the Foundation office at 807-737-7997 to make your donation today.

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