More MS news articles for July 2001

E. Ontario MRI access worst in province

1 for 391,379 people; Toronto has 1 for every 218,492: report

Thursday 5 July 2001
Joanne Laucius
The Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa patients share the worst access to MRI machines of any region in the province, new figures from the Ontario Association of Radiologists reveal.

Eastern Ontario, with a population of approximately 1.6 million, has four magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRIs), or one MRI for every 391,379 people. That's almost twice as many people as the Toronto region -- where there is one MRI for every 218,492 people. The North East region, which includes Sudbury and Timmins has the best access at 215,391 people for every MRI.

"Eastern Ontario is getting screwed," said Dr. Leonard Avruch, supervising MRI radiologist at the General campus of the Ottawa Hospital. "Politicians need to treat Eastern Ontario fairly."

MRIs, already used frequently in cancer diagnoses, are also being used for cutting edge diagnostic work. Stroke victims, for example, can be aggressively treated with anti-clotting agents, as long as doctors have a firm diagnosis within three hours, said Dr. Avruch.

There's also a huge potential for using MRI to diagnose multiple sclerosis.

"Some diseases you need to catch and treat quickly. Multiple sclerosis is one of them," said Dr. Avruch.

Eastern Ontario's four MRIs include one at CHEO, one each at the two campuses of the Ottawa Hospital, and another in Kingston.

In effect, it means that there are really only two MRIs for adult patients in Ottawa, said Ray Foley, executive director of the Ontario Association of Radiologists.

The association has recommended that the Ottawa area should get four or five new MRIs.

"Two scanners are serving a population of a million people. That's grossly out of line with the rest of the province," said Mr. Foley.

Meanwhile, lack of MRIs is becoming a real problem for teaching hospitals.

"If you don't have an MRI, you can't teach residents. Then you can't turn out the number of graduates you need for the province," said Mr. Foley

Last February, Health Minister Allan Rock called on Ontario to spend some of the $400 million in new federal money for medical equipment on MRIs.

Yesterday, David Jensen, a spokesman for the provincial Health Ministry, said the province is reviewing a proposal for one more MRI for Ottawa. "We're looking at the numbers and data," he said.