A leading expert on medical imaging is warning New Brunswick against its plan to use only 1.5T magnetic resonance imaging machines to equip five regional hospitals.
Dr. Alan Moody, the chair of the department of medical imaging at the University of Toronto and radiologist-in-chief at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, calls the decision to purchase only the less powerful 1.5T MRIs short-sighted.
"I think by having a blended approach whereby you have access not only to 1.5T scanners but also a central area where you have access to 3T scanners means there will be a better quality of care," he said.
"If all of the hospitals had 1.5T scanners, then nobody in the province would have access to 3T scanning."
Magnets in MRI systems are rated using a unit of measure known as a Tesla (T).
The province is buying 1.5T machines for hospitals in Saint John, Moncton, Edmundston, Miramichi and Bathurst over the next two years at a cost of $1.8 million dollars each.
The province recently turned down an offer of $1 million from the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation to upgrade the new MRI for the Saint John hospital to a 3T unit.
Fundy-River Valley MLA and former heart surgeon Jim Parrott broke ranks with the Alward government over the issue last Thursday, criticizing the decision in a newspaper commentary.
Parrot contends the province needs at least two 3T machines in order to bring diagnostic imaging up to standards — one in Saint John and another in Moncton, which are both specialized hospitals.
Dr. John Whalen, the clinical department head of diagnostic imaging at the Saint John Regional Hospital, has long argued the 3T machines are ideal for the province's only accredited tertiary trauma centre, which offers specialized services, such as neurology and cardiology.
The 3Ts produce higher resolution and finer imaging, which results in better diagnoses, surgery and treatment plans for patients with conditions such as brain tumours, Whalen has said.
Saint John East MLA Glen Tait has said he hopes to arrange a meeting between the premier and local health officials to discuss the matter.