Officials confirm Bridgewater hospital on tap for a new MRI


With staff files

It's official: the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness has plans to create the appropriate space for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine in its redevelopment project at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater.

Moreover, the department said it will procure the machine, but the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore will buy it.

However, the issue of a new MRI for the hospital is a bit of a case of who knew what, when.

"Improving access to medical equipment close to home will mean better health care for Nova Scotians. That's why government is helping to fund a new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner for the South Shore Regional Hospital," announced the government in a news release issued February 3.

An MRI scanner is a diagnostic imaging tool that provides non-invasive, detailed images of internal organs and systems.

"Government will cover the construction, procurement and installation of the new MRI scanner. The Health Services Foundation of the South Shore has launched a campaign to raise funds to buy the new piece of equipment," the release continued.

"The addition, part of the South Shore Regional Hospital Redevelopment Project, was announced today, Feb. 3, by Minister of Justice Mark Furey, on behalf of Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine," the statement noted.

"It is fantastic to see continued progress at the South Shore Regional Hospital," Furey stated in the release. "A new MRI will mean more timely and convenient access to diagnostic imaging for the community, which is a key component of safe and high-quality care."

However, two years ago Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) officials were left grappling with how to respond to comments Furey made to the media following a January, 2019 news conference.

The purpose of the news conference was to announce the lead architect for the expansion and renovation work at the Bridgewater Hospital.

Records released to LighthouseNOW by the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) under freedom-of-information legislation indicated Furey was wrong when he anticipated construction taking place that year and that some of the thought behind the project included identifying space for a future MRI.

Furey's constituency includes Bridgewater and the Glen Allan Drive hospital, and he's the current Minister of Justice.

"The event was very well attended and went very well except Minister Furey said that identifying space for an MRI was within the scope of the project which came as news to the project team here and I think, will likely be the headline," Theresa Hawkesworth, a NSHA community relations and special projects manager, said in an email to various communications officials.

The email, which also reached the premier's office, was sent the same day of the event, January 18.

The South Shore Regional Hospital Redevelopment Project, a partnership between the NSHA, the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore and South Shore Regional Auxiliary, was announced in April 2020, and represents a total provincial investment of $112.7 million. Work will include the expansion and renovation of the emergency department, endoscopy and day surgery units, physical plant and the addition of a dialysis unit.

Alison Clements, the foundation's development officer, confirmed the MRI arrangement.

"Basically the province will procure it. They'll source a vendor. They will build everything to encompass the MRI... The Health Services Foundation is purchasing the actual scanner," she told LighthouseNOW.

"And that's with any piece of equipment ... As you know, you can't just go buy a heart monitor for a hospital at Walmart. They have their procurements and their contracts so that they source it, they procure it, and we pay for it."

What happened between last April and now for the government to decide that, yes, this is a valuable piece of equipment that should be in this construction project is a "great question," said Clements.

"I don't have an answer. That would be more on the province's side. We've really just been brought into the loop over the past few days," she commented.

"This is something that the rest of us on the South Shore have wanted for a very long time, and so it's something that has come to fruition, and we really couldn't be more excited about it," added Clements.

In an email to LighthouseNOW on February 4, Marla MacInnis, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Wellness, said: "The need for the MRI was identified at the start of the project and the construction work needed to support the housing and installation of the equipment was included in the approval for the redevelopment project."

She explained that the announcement on February 3 "confirms details for the acquisition of the equipment and that it will be installed once it is purchased and the space is ready."

The addition of the MRI to the SSRH Redevelopment Project brings the Health Services Foundation's capital campaign goal to $5-million.

"The announcement of the MRI for South Shore Regional Hospital has definitely added another level of excitement as we continue to plan and prepare for what will be the Foundation's largest campaign to date," said Arleen Stevens, the executive director of the foundation, in a news release issued by the foundation also on February 3.

Stevens said the foundation currently is organizing its leadership team for its capital campaign, "and will have details to share in the months to come."

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