It is a decision that is being called baffling on social media.  

Tuesday morning, many in southeast Saskatchewan learned that in March of this year, Elaine Walkom offered to donate $2 million for an MRI machine to be put into place at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Estevan, for serving the southeast part of the province. Walkom had made the offer after learning access to MRI machines in the area was in high demand, and it would save people from having to drive to Regina or Moose Jaw.  

At the end of May, Walkom received a response from the provincial Ministry of Health, signed by at the time Health Minister Paul Merriman, that stated there are no immediate plans to expand MRI services to the southeast part of the province, and they encouraged Walkom to work with the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation to determine alternate uses for the $2 million donation.  

The decision has many wondering why the donation specifically to bring an MRI machine to the region was declined. One of those is the MLA for Estevan, Lori Carr.  

“I would argue that these services are needed, so what that tells me is there’s more work that needs to be done,” Carr stated. “I’ve been actively lobbying my colleagues for this to turn into a yes.” 

According to Carr, the work to get the decision reversed includes working with the executive director of the hospital, Candace Kopec.  

"This is what we had to do a few years back when we were successful in bringing CT services to the area," said Carr. "I know it is frustrating with how long it takes for positive approvals, but I think we are in a spot now that an official proposal will be prepared by the facility that will actually host this MRI machine. I look forward to that work being done. Then I will be able to show exactly why we should receive a yes." 

There was reaction from around the region to the decision from the provincial government to decline the offer of $2 million for the MRI machine, as well as the training of two technicians.  

"We cannot logically understand the decision of the Ministry of Health to decline the offer of Ms. Walkom as her donation would not only be sufficient to provide the service but will be in a location of the province in dire need of better MRI service,” said a letter from the R.M. of Browning that was sent to the province in August. “There are certainly other locations that require MRI services just as much as Estevan, but this donation would adequately provide a service that the province can not afford to decline anywhere." 

The latest numbers from the Ministry of Health, available on the province's website, show the 90th percentile wait time for an MRI, that is, how long it takes 9 out of 10 people to get an MRI done once referred for one, is 246 days. The median of wait times is currently 38 days, meaning half of all MRIs are done within 38 days.  

The provincial government has yet to respond to requests for comment at the time this story was published.  

--With files from

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