Residents of Saskatchewan may be getting a new option when it comes to MRI scans, following an announcement from the provincial government introducing legislation that would end the prohibition of purchasing private scans within the province.
“If somebody buys an MRI scan from a private clinic within the province, the private clinic would put to charge a fee high enough that would cover the costs for them to do a public scan from somebody on our public wait list,” said Health Minister Dustin Duncan.
The benefits of this would be an increased capacity within the system and it would also take somebody off of the public wait list without costing taxpayers and patients extra money.
“It’s essentially a two for one that people will have the ability to buy a privately paid scan, but in return for that, we will get somebody waiting on our public list a scan from the private company as well,” said Duncan.
He says there are people who go out of province to pay for private scans to avoid long waits and this would give them the choice to do that in their home province.
The new option has also already been in use by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Workers Compensation Board for a number of years, where they can pay for private scans as long as they cover the cost for someone on the public wait list to get a scan.
“We don’t stop people from going out of the province and bringing a scan back to (Saskatchewan), their specialists and surgeons can use those scans. So this is something that’s already happening, we think that there’s a way to facilitate it happening closer to home for those people, so they don’t have to travel out of province or out of country,” said Duncan.
“Our plan is we’ll get a public scan out of this, so there will be a benefit in lowering our public wait times that we have for MRI scans.”
The current wait times for MRIs in Regina are 24 days for urgent scans, 153 for semi-urgent and 226 for non-urgent. In Saskatoon, the waits are even longer with urgent scans taking up to 49 days, semi-urgent 178 and non-urgent scans taking about 233.
Duncan says that at this point they don’t know how much this new legislation would reduce wait times, should it be passed, but the government isn’t satisfied with the current situation, so they are “thinking outside the box” to find solutions.
“Really this will be dependant upon whether or not private companies can build a business case that will support their costs to do two scans for what they would charge one patient for, but it also has to be cost-effective for the customer,” he said.
“The demand is really going to be based on how many people think this is an option for them. At the end of the day we’re not going to prohibit people from going out of the province if they think that’s a better option for them, they’ll still be allowed to do that.
“This is just one option to bring that service closer to home and a way for us to get a benefit to the public system because of it.”
Duncan says the earliest this idea would come into fruition would be next spring and that they just wanted to introduce the legislation to let their intentions of letting people pay for their own scans be known to the public.