(Image / Island Health Twitter)

Welcome news is on the horizon for healthcare on Vancouver Island as construction has begun on a new MRI scanner at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

The machine is designed to help diagnose a number of medical conditions, like brain abnormalities, tumors, cysts, and soft-tissue injuries, and is expected to reduce wait times for exams across central Vancouver Island.

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According to the province, 11,264 MRI scans were performed at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital last year, nearly 2,000 more than in 2017.

The 11,264 scans cut down the wait time for over many patients from 70 days in 2017 to 34 days in 2018, and from 177 days to 76 days over the same time period.

The newly announced MRI, which is expected to be operational in spring 2020, will cut these wait times down even more, according to the province.

“People in Nanaimo are already benefiting from the B.C. Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Strategy launched last year by government,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health in a statement.

“Through this strategy, Island Health performed 28% more MRI exams in 2018-19 compared to the previous year, including 11,264 scans at NRGH. This $5.5 million investment to add a second MRI at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital will make it easier for people to access to this important diagnostic tool when they need it.”

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Total construction costs for the new MRI suite are approximately $5.5 million, with $3.4 million being provided by the province and $2.4 million coming from the Nanaimo Regional Hospital District.

A new, state-of-the-art 3T MRI magnet is also expected to come to Victoria this year at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, says the health ministry. The new equipment is scheduled to be installed in October, 2019.