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New MRI scans first patient at St. Mary’s General Hospital


The new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener is now operational.

The first patient was scanned Monday afternoon, the hospital foundation says, and three more were scheduled for Tuesday.

Capable of diagnosing things like cancer, organ disease and spinal injuries, the MRI machine is the first at St. Mary’s and the third in Kitchener-Waterloo.

“It’s a huge milestone because the patients can now be done at St. Mary’s versus being transported to Grand River or any other regional hospitals,” said Natisha Lal, administrative director of imaging and nuclear medicine for St. Mary’s and Grand River hospitals.

St. Mary’s and Grand River will operate all three MRI machines through a joint program.

New machine will decrease wait times, says hospital

Hospital officials say the new MRI machine will decrease wait times, speed up diagnoses and make it easier for patients to get the care they need closer to home.

An MRI magnet was lifted into St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener on February 16, 2024.

George Pepall was among the first to be scanned on Tuesday. He had waited close to a year to have imaging taken of his liver.

“The long-term wait is stressful because you want information about your problem, but the short-term waits in a hall like this, in a line up virtually, becomes a problem too. [It’s] frustrating when you don’t know when you’re going to be done and going to be able to go home,” Pepall said.

In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Health said in part: “Over the last year we increased diagnostic imaging capacity… and achieved some of the shortest wait times of any province in Canada in 2023, with nearly 80 per cent of people receiving their procedure within clinically recommended target times.”

But according to Ontario Health, across the province, low-priority patients wait an average of 63 days longer than the 28-day target.

At Grand River Hospital, the average wait time for low-priority patients is 184 days. Urgent cases receive their scans within 10 days, Grand River Hospital said.

Statistics from January 2024 show average MRI wait times at Grand River General Hospital and provincially. (Source: Ontario Health)

“It was very challenging for patients,” said Dr. Derek Karanwal, the joint chief and medical director of Medical Imaging at St. Mary's and Grand River hospitals. “They would often have to go outside our local K-W region. They would have to go to Toronto, to London, to Hamilton.”

With the new MRI machine expected to complete roughly 4,500 scans in its first year, St. Mary’s hopes to see wait times shrink, one patient at a time.

“We've known for a long time that we're going get good care here,” said Pepall. “It's been consistently true and again today that's been true."

Name of MRI suite honours long-time hospital volunteer

The $7.6 million cost of the MRI was covered through fundraising efforts. The new suite where it is housed is named after long-time hospital volunteer and board member Thomas J. Motz. Motz died of an aortic dissection at St. Mary’s General Hospital in June 2020. He was 57.

Thomas J. Motz, long-time volunteer and board member at St. Mary's General Hospital, in an undated photo. (Source: St. Mary's General Hospital)

“My dad came to view St. Mary’s as a second home. He took enormous pride in the hospital’s commitment to innovation, positive outcomes, and compassionate care,” his son, Chris Motz, said in the release. “We are extremely proud to attach his name to this MRI suite.”

The suite includes the magnet room and control centre where staff will operate the machine, as well as waiting rooms, changing rooms and washrooms, a radiology reporting room and a technical processing and administration area. Top Stories

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