The NDP government has weighed in on the MRI issue for the new Portage and District General Hospital, noting they are open for reconsideration of a unit in the future, just not now.

Manitoba Minister of Health Uzoma Asagwara says upon hearing the concerns from folks in the community, and from physicians, as a government and as a minister, they did their due diligence and reached out to the local diagnostic lead and experts in terms of whether or not it made sense to have an MRI at this time.

"The experts have made clear that it does not," says Asagwara. "That being said, we are a listening government, which is why we I took it upon myself to do our due diligence when these concerns were brought forward. So, ultimately, that means that we continue to listen and we continue to assess. As the healthcare systems needs evolve as the population needs evolve, change, and grow, we must be always listening and learning what the next best steps are for our healthcare system. And so I will continue to work with our experts and stakeholders in the community and our partners to make sure, that as we make plans moving forward and develop strategies, we consider the needs of evolving communities and make investments based on what the evidence and experts tell us needs to happen."

Asagwara explains it's important to think about an MRI in in Portage or anywhere in the province in the context of the province. 

"We have a higher number of MRIs per capita than several other jurisdictions. And it's important that we make the best use possible of the MRI capacity that we have and that means developing a plan to have the right number of staff to make sure that we are operating our MRI's to their full capacity, so that Manitobans can access them as much as possible. There's a lot of planning and a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that we are maximizing the existing capacity of MRIs in Manitoba and that we develop a long-term plan that meets the needs of an ever-evolving, growing, and diversified population in our province."

The minister notes community members, physicians, and others who brought this to the province's attention were very effective in moving them to do their due diligence.

"We met with experts. We asked the right questions in terms of why is it that that folks are this concerned about having an MRI. Is there an opportunity right now to make that investment and does it make sense? We had our experts take a good look at what's happening in Portage and surrounding communities and look at the province overall. It was made very clear that at this time, it's not the best step to have an MRI at that location." 

Asagwara adds they are listening to the experts and working with their partners to develop a plan for diagnostics that meet the needs of Manitobans across the province.

"We are always going to continue to assess and make sure that our investments and our approach evolves as Manitoba's population. At this time, it doesn't make sense to make that kind of an investment. That's not to say it will never make sense, but certainly there's a tremendous amount of work that we're doing to ensure that we are maximizing the existing MRI capacity that we have, that we are retaining training and recruiting more technologists to provide essential healthcare, and that we investing in strengthening healthcare across the province and to do it with intention with our partners and with the plan."

In regards to the doctors who wrote a letter to the Premier, the Health Minister notes, again, they have listened to all the concerns brought forward.

"We have experts in Manitoba who lead diagnostics for a reason and it's their expertise that is helping to guide our decision making and investments as a government. We will always listen to folks who bring their concerns and ideas forward, and we're always going to work in partnership with interested parties who want to make healthcare better. At this time, we are working with our partners and we invite these same physicians and we invite folks who are interested in improving healthcare to work with us to train, retain, and recruit more technologists to provide this essential service to be a part of how we make a long-term plan that meets the needs of Manitobans across the province. This keeps us up to speed in terms of how the needs of communities are evolving, so that we are ensuring our investments are also reflecting the needs of our increasingly diverse province." 

Asagwara adds it's valuable that people bring their concerns forward to the government. 

"I think it reflects that people know we are a listening government, that we want to hear people's ideas and their hopes and concerns for healthcare. And when people do so, it gives us the opportunity to take a closer look and to do our due diligence to better understand what a particular community's needs are or what needs to happen in the healthcare system. The previous government had ample opportunity to ensure that an MRI would be in the hospital, if that was the best course of action, they chose not to do. I thank those physicians and I thank folks who have highlighted this for us because it allowed us to work with our lead for diagnostics for the province to get his perspective and expertise and to learn how we can ensure that we are working with communities on a long-term basis to make investments that make sense. We're going to work with those physicians."

The Minister says they'll work with folks who have brought their ideas and concerns forward and will make sure that they make investments in our healthcare system and move it in the right direction.