MRI aids more than 15,700 patients

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South Canterbury’s $3million MRI scanner has been in use for five years. Reporter Alexia Johnston finds out just how far the community initiative has come and who is benefiting.

South Canterbury’s MRI scanner has clocked up more than 15,700 scans in five years.

Six years ago, those patients would have been sent to Christchurch, a process that cost time and money.

Today, patients are spared both.

From March 2013 to February this year, 15,720 patients have required an MRI scan in Timaru.

Of those patients, about 1600 were aged from 55 to 59, followed closely by patients aged 50 to 54.

The younger generation has also relied on the machine. About 100 children aged from 5 to 9 have required scans and 400 10-to-14-year-olds.

The facility was installed 16 months after the community started pledging money towards it.

Of the $3million raised by the community, $1.59million went towards the machine, $800,000 towards the building and $200,000 for an anaesthetic machine.

A further $200,000 was put towards training staff to use it.

The remaining money was placed in the Aoraki MRI Charitable Trust for ongoing maintenance costs and future replacement of the machine, which has a life expectancy of 10 years.

A celebration was recently held at Timaru Hospital to mark the machine’s five-year anniversary, an event attended by various members of the South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) and medical team.

SCDHB chairman Ron Luxton said the MRI meant people were able to access the diagnostic care within their own district and were waiting less time to get the care, compared with when they had to go to Christchurch for it.

The machine was still owned by the people of South Canterbury, through the MRI Aoraki Charitable Trust, Mr Luxton said.

He said the trust was building up capital, which would be used to help replace the machine when required, along with the necessary upgrades.

“Whatever it is, I think the trust is well placed to provide what ever is needed,” Mr Luxton said.

“We are managing the finances through a fund and it’s growing.”