Saskatoon

Health care expert, Steven Lewis, says Saskatchewan MRI plan could create two-tiered system

A high-profile health consultant believes that Saskatchewan’s plan to introduce MRI diagnostic testing at private clinics could indeed create a two-tiered system.

Quicker diagnosis equals quicker treatment, says Steven Lewis

Steven Lewis worries that Saskatchewan's private MRI plan will favour those who can pay for the service. (John Rieti/CBC)

A high-profile health consultant believes that Saskatchewan's plan to introduce MRI diagnostic testing at private clinics could indeed create a two-tiered system.

Steven Lewis with Access Communications concedes that, in reality, there's always been a bit of a two-tiered system in the province because Medicare doesn't cover a lot of services.

"Has anyone looked at whether all of these scans are appropriate?" - Steven Lewis

At the same time Lewis thinks a new private system being implemented by the provincial government will offer an unfair advantage for those who are willing to pay.

"If you can buy your way to a quicker MRI scan and then the findings suggest you need something, I can't see how that would control that person from jumping the queue for whatever procedure you might need."

Lewis suggested that the earlier a problem is identified, the earlier the patient is placed on the waiting list for the medical procedure needed to correct it.

The government is selling its new user-pay MRI plan with a promise that to may help ease the strain on the public system as well. That's because it will demand that every paid scan that a clinic performs will have to be matched by a free scan for someone on the public waiting list.

Lewis questions the idea, suggesting it will do little to reduce wait times.

Unnecessary scans may be slowing the public system down 

Instead, he said, the government might instead concentrate on eliminating unnecessary tests.

"We've doubled public MRI capacity in this province since 2007 and still we seem to have fairly long line-ups."

"Has anyone looked at whether all of these scans are appropriate?"

Lewis said that adding private MRI clinics may only exacerbate the problem as clinics begin marketing diagnostic scans to people who may not need them.

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