The efforts to see an MRI unit in the new Portage District General Hospital continue and petitions are still being encouraged. Portage la Prairie MLA Jeff Bereza says a statistic was brought to his attention recently that promotes the need even more. 

An online petition was even organized a few years ago, to boot!

"It came out just Tuesday that the wait time pre-COVID versus now has increased by 50 per cent. So, again, do we need an MRI in Portage la Prairie?  I think that speaks volumes. Again, if we want to catch these issues early on, the time to do it is now. When I saw that statistic, I thought it should make it easier for the government to decide on that. It should be a goal with things like that and it should be a go. The government is trying to do different things with healthcare. This is a perfect opportunity where this is a moment when they could really rise above with this MRI."

Bereza recounts the 35 doctors who wrote a letter to Premier Wab Kinew and copied him in on it. He notes they brought a lot of things to light such as the inequities, financially and culturally, that a lot of people go through who aren't able to get to an MRI. 

He explains he drove to Dakota Plains recently for the Portage apology to the Dakota people, after it had rained earlier in the morning. 

"I didn't think we were going to get there due to the muddy dirt roads. Somebody shouldn't be limited from getting an MRI or any health treatment because of poor roads or any other conditions. We can do better and I know, that as Manitobans, we want to do better. Just having that MRI here will put us in a position to help out."

He adds that he informs people that they have a voice and all of us have a job to work hard so that we can ensure we're not missing out on an MRI.

"Somebody asked me, 'Is this like Stride Place?' I can tell you Stride Place was a 'want.' This MRI is a 'need.' It's much more important. Stride is a fantastic facility for Portage la Prairie, but this is a need to make us a healthier province." 

Because this hospital is the largest construction project in which Southern Health-Santé Sud has ever engaged, and one of the top 100 infrastructure projects in the entire country, to lack an MRI unit seems contradictory. 

"But we're doing what we can to change that," continues Bereza. "It seems that every time we start digging regarding the MRI, the information just gets more and more insightful. As of right now, there are over 23,000 people in Manitoba who are waiting for an MRI. The most scans they can do are about 8,000 a year. Even if we were to have one in Portage, which we need desperately right now, with those numbers, we're still over 15,000 people who would still be on a waiting list for an MRI."

Bereza adds the early detection capability an MRI provides will save lives in cancer cases, including tumours and breast examination. 

"An MRI in Portage could be a savings for the healthcare system if we can get these people looked at, diagnosed, and treated earlier. I think it makes nothing but total sense that we should be doing this."

He stresses it's not a political issue, but is simply about people. Bereza adds it's not just this area but considering those wait times, it's an overall Manitoba issue.

"If we can help make this province a little bit better, I think it's a good day. Portage la Prairie, being centrally located with the opportunities that we have, with Southport for MedEvac flight, it's the best option. We have a large indigenous population, as well. And it eliminates a lot of the travel, which can be a burden on a lot of people, too."

Bereza also reflects on the Hospital Foundation's miraculous commitment to provide $5,000,000. 

"And speaking to a lot of their donors, they feel very strongly about the MRI, too. We're going to continue to push. We're going to continue to urge people to sign petitions. They'll be all over Portage. We're probably between 3,000 and 4,000 names. What I'd like to see, and it might be a very lofty goal, would be to get 10,000 names out there. That goes for people all over the province, too, because this is going to be a help for all of the province."