A New Brunswick entrepreneur is setting up the province’s first 3T magnetic resonance imaging unit in a private clinic in Moncton.

The Department of Health faced a controversy earlier this year over its decision not to fund a 3T MRI in Saint John.

The provincial government is examining when it will invest in 3T MRI machines, but it does not have a timeline for when it will acquire the advanced units.

A Moncton businessperson is not waiting for the provincial government to offer the service.

Marc Maurice said private MRI clinics are popular in other provinces, so he thinks the service will work in New Brunswick.

si-mri-stock-220

A Moncton businessperson plans to set up a private MRI clinic in the city. (iStock photo)

"Basically it's a parallel system where those who are looking to pay can move ahead a little bit faster," he said.

Maurice has bought a 3T MRI.

Maurice said roughly 1,000 people already travel each year to Quebec, Nova Scotia or Maine for quick access to the latest technology.

Maurice said instead of waiting up to a year for an MRI scan, he'll be able to give patients their results within 48 hours.

But patients who want that quick scan will need to pay $900.

Magnets in MRI systems are rated using a unit of measure known as a Tesla (T).

The provincial government 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 each.

Saint John doctors have been calling for a 3T scanner in the city's hospital for years.

They contend 3T machines produce higher resolution and finer imaging, which results in better diagnoses and better surgery and treatment plans for patients with conditions such as brain tumours.

Jumping the queue

Michael McBane, the national coordinator for the Canadian Health Coalition, a public advocacy organization dedicated to the preservation and improvement of Medicare, said the private service helps those who have more money.

"It's basically access based on ability to pay: you fork out the money, you get the test. And then what do you do, well you jump the queue and get the diagnosis ahead of someone else who hasn't got the money to pay for the test," he said.

McBane said he expects the private clinics will also poach radiologists from the public sector.

He said the province’s waiting lists for health services could grow longer if health professionals leave the public system to work in private clinics.

Health Minister Madeleine Dubé was not available to comment about the private health clinic.