Community Pushes for MRI Scanner in New Portage la Prairie Health Centre

Portage la Prairie and its surrounding communities have been actively advocating for the inclusion of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner in the new Portage Regional Health Centre (PRHC), currently under construction. This $455-million healthcare facility, set to open in late 2025 or early 2026, will replace the outdated Portage District General Hospital.

Initially, the construction plans did not include an MRI scanner. The decision, supported by Progressive Conservative MLA for Portage la Prairie, was based on Shared Health Diagnostic Services’ data indicating that only about 3,000 patients from the area needed MRIs annually, which would only justify around 50% usage of an MRI machine and its staff. As a result, patients from Portage were directed to other regional health centres for MRIs.

However, recent information has shifted perspectives. Over 30 doctors from Portage Clinic have highlighted that the 3,000 MRI figure only accounts for completed scans, not the missed appointments due to economic and social barriers, such as lack of transportation. Many patients, particularly seniors, face challenges in attending their appointments due to distance and lack of available rides.

Indigenous community leaders have also pointed out cultural barriers that prevent individuals from seeking medical care far from their cultural settings. The PRHC, in contrast, will offer cultural spaces and services, making it a more suitable location for these patients.

Including an MRI scanner in PRHC would not only serve local needs but also reduce the burden on facilities in Winnipeg and northern Manitoba. Grace Hospital in Winnipeg has a current wait time of 27 weeks for an MRI, and redirecting some patients to Portage could alleviate this backlog. Furthermore, the proximity of Southport Aerospace to the new hospital would facilitate efficient medevac flights for northern patients.

With nearly 24,000 people waiting for an MRI in Manitoba, installing an MRI in Portage la Prairie could perform up to 8,000 scans annually, still leaving a significant waitlist but substantially improving access.

The community’s support is evident, with a petition calling for an MRI in the new PRHC facility garnering between 3,000 and 4,000 signatures—approximately 25% of Portage la Prairie’s population. The Portage District General Hospital Foundation has pledged $5 million towards the installation of an MRI, ready to partner with Manitoba Health to make this service a reality.

The push for an MRI in PRHC aligns with the Minister of Health’s mandate to make healthcare accessible for all Manitobans, regardless of their location. As the hospital’s construction progresses, there is a crucial opportunity to reassess and include an MRI scanner in the final plans, ensuring that the residents of Portage la Prairie and surrounding communities receive essential diagnostic services closer to home.

In summary, the community’s call to “build it, and they will come” highlights the urgent need for an MRI scanner in the new Portage Regional Health Centre.–News Desk