Private MRI services have been launched in Saskatchewan for those who are willing to pay. 

The government announced today that two MRI clinics in Regina have been licensed to offer private scans for a fee. The cost will be determined by each clinic.

More than 6,000 people are waiting for an MRI in the province, making it the longest wait list of any special imaging service. 

Minister of Health Dustin Duncan said the long wait is driving people to look out of province to places where they can pay for the service. 

"We're also trying to provide a service that people are already doing and taking advantage of each and every day. We're trying to do it a little closer to home and benefit the public system," Duncan said.

dustin duncan health minister saskatchewan mar 1 2016

Minister of Health Dustin Duncan said many people already leave the province when they want to pay for an MRI. (CBC)

Opposition, doctors take issue

The move isn't sitting well with the province's official NDP opposition. 

Health critic Danielle Chartier said the health system needs to be fixed for everyone, not just those who can pay for it. 

"I don't begrudge anybody who has money to pay for a scan. But the reality is we live in a place where medically necessary health care should be available in a timely fashion for everyone," she said. 

Chartier also took issue with the service only being offered for those in the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region. 

"If you live in the RQHR you'll get a scan. Saskatoon Health Region and other health regions across the province, not so much," she said. 

Health Critic Danielle Chartier mar 1 2016

Health Critic Danielle Chartier said health care should be available in a timely fashion for everyone, not just those who can afford it. (CBC)

On Tuesday the Saskatchewan Medical Association, which represents the province's doctors, said it's opposed to the two-tiered MRI system. 

In a release, SMA said the policy has been implemented hastily, and that there is no clear evidence that offering private scans will lead to shorter wait times for the public. 

The SMA said the government should make sure access to medical care is "based on need, and not the ability to pay." 

Public scans also offered

Duncan said the public system will benefit from the new service. He said every time someone buys an MRI in the province, one must be given free of charge to someone on the public waiting list within 14 days.

So far the only waiting list that will be affected by the service is in Regina, and patients can only pay for the service if given a doctor referral.  

But Duncan said the capacity for doing MRI scans needs to be increased in other communities as well. 

"As we get further into this if we don't have a provider in Saskatoon that is providing this service we do have the option of making some adjustments to the program," he said. 

Right now there are ten public scanners in the province.

The two clinics in Regina that will offer the service are Open Skies MRI Diagnostics on Parliament Avenue and Mayfair Diagnostics on Albert Street.