A Winnipeg businessman hopes to open a private MRI clinic in a new office complex set to be built on Long Plain First Nation's Winnipeg urban reserve.

The Manitoba First Nation will own the $20-million facility building, in which a company owned by former internet pharmacy owner Daren Jorgenson hopes to lease space.

Jorgenson plans to offer a wide range of services, including elective MRI scans, dental care and blood and urine tests. He hopes to partner with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Manitoba Health to offer public services, including a family practice, walk-in care and endocrinology.

"Hopefully we'll have a contract with Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Manitoba Health to do public pay, and regardless of whether we have a contract … we're also going to do private pay," he said.

By offering these services in a private, for-profit facility, Jorgenson believes he can provide them at a lower cost, he said.

"Our mantra is we're confident we can do three things: we can increase access to health-care services, we can increase the quality of those health-care services delivered and we can do both those things while reducing cost to the payer."

Jorgenson said he hasn't had any discussions yet with the provincial government about partnering with public health care.

"We're very sensitive to taxpayer, we're very sensitive to the government dilemma they find with the health-care budget, and we think we can be an innovative partner with Manitoba Health and the regional health authority," he said.

The goal of the facility is to offer services for patients in Manitoba who are not satisfied with wait times in the public sector, Jorgensen said.

The facility is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete.

Jorgenson has been involved in several medical businesses in Winnipeg, including opening Four Rivers Medical Clinic and starting CanadaMeds.com, an internet pharmacy company.

For-profit clinics pop up

This isn't the first private, for-profit MRI clinic proposed in Manitoba. The Town of Niverville partnered with a private company to open a diagnostic centre that will include an MRI.

Jorgenson also partnered with Roseau River First Nation to open a for-profit medical clinic on their urban reserve in 2007.

Although the Canada Health Act forbids charging a fee for any medically necessary services, Jorgenson said the act doesn't apply when a clinic is on a reserve.

A statement from Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said any facility offering diagnostic imaging in Manitoba must be approved under the Health Services Insurance Act.

Health Canada said the Canada Health Act has authority over provincial insurance plans.

"Federal and provincial laws of general application, including the requirements of the Canada Health Act, apply on and off reserve," Health Canada said in a statement.

"Under the Canada Health Act, medically necessary MRI scans are insured health services and should be covered by provincial plans whether these services are provided in hospitals or in private clinics. The proposed private MRI clinic would raise concerns if insured Manitoba residents are charged for, or pay for, access to insured health services at the facility."

The federal government and the Saskatchewan government have argued over the opening of private MRI clinics in that province, which in 2015 started allowing private clinics to charge patients for an MRI, but in return, the clinic had to offer a spot to a patient from the public system.

In January, Ottawa gave Saskatchewan a year to develop a case proving its private MRI clinics conform with the Canada Health Act.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version this story stated that Long Plain First Nation and Daren Jorgenson's company were partnering to open the clinic. In fact, the First Nation will own the new building and Jorgenson's company is seeking to lease part of it.
    Dec 06, 2017 7:51 PM CT
With files from Rignam Wangkhang