NDP leader Carla Beck tore down the Saskatchewan Party government on Tuesday, saying it denied a $2 million donation for an MRI in Estevan.
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“We’re talking about a local citizen stepping up to donate $2 million to solve a problem, and you’ve got Scott Moe and his ministers getting in the way,” Beck said.
“We have a province where hundreds of people are waiting for surgeries and MRI’s to get those surgeries and we have a citizen who has come forth with a very generous offer to purchase an MRI to be used in the southeast corner of the province.”
On March 23, Elaine Walkom wrote the provincial government, wanting to make a donation of $2 million for the purchase of an MRI machine in Estevan.
“This amount would also include the training of two technicians required to operate the machine,” read a letter from Walkom to the Ministry of Health, provided to Global News by the R.M. of Browning.
Walkom’s letter said she had spoken with staff at St. Joseph’s Hopsital on several occasions and confirmed that access to an MRI machine was a necessity for the community.
On May 31, Walkom received a response from former Saskatchewan Minister of Health Paul Merriman.
“While we welcome the opportunity of a donation to further improve MRI services in the province, there are many factors to consider before expanding MRI services to a new location,” read the letter.
“I encourage you to work with St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation to determine what alternate needs the hospital may have that can utilize your generous donation.”
The letter stated that location, population base, staffing and service volumes need to be considered when bringing in technology like MRIs and said that the operating funding would stretch beyond the purchase of the equipment.
The R.M. of Browning caught wind of Walkom’s donation and the province’s denial in August and wrote a letter of their own.
“We cannot logically understand the decision of the Ministry of Health to decline the offer of Ms. Walkom as her donation would not only be sufficient to provide the service but will be in a location of the province in dire need of better MRI services,” read the letter.
“There are certainly other locations that require MRI services just as much as Estevan, but this donation would adequately provide a service that the province cannot afford to decline anywhere.”
The R.M. said that Estevan would be the perfect location for a new MRI machine in the province.
“Citizens of Weyburn currently has MRI services available in an acceptable driving distance of Moose Jaw and Regina,” read a letter from the R.M. to the Ministry of Health.
“Even if an MRI scanner were to be installed in Weyburn, there would unfortunately still be communities in southeast Saskatchewan closer to MRI scanners in North Dakota, USA.”
Beck said she is curious to hear explanations from the Premier and his ministers.
“If the excuse is that the recruitment plan isn’t working well enough to find two people in the whole of the southwest of the province or recruit people to the province to run this MRI and that’s the block… I would invite the premier to the southeast of the province to explain why that is the case.”
She said Moe should see the offer as citizens showing they want to be a part of the solution to health care issues.
When Global News reached out to the government for comment, they said they look forward to discussing other options for Walkom’s donation at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“We thank Ms. Elaine Walkom for her generosity and for her interest in contributing to health care in Estevan. The Ministry of Health looks forward to further discussing opportunities to advance health care services in Estevan with Ms. Walkom and St. Joeseph’s Hospital Foundation in the near future,” read a statement from the Ministry of Health.
The development of a thorough plan is key to determining if and how a new health care service can be supported and accessible in the long term. The Ministry of Health is actively working with the operator of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Emmanuel Health, to develop a plan to support discussions on this issue.”
Global News had asked the government why the donation was refused and if donations are frequently denied.
The questions were not answered in the statement they provided.
Global News also asked if there are any guidelines surrounding public donations to heath care but did not receive any form of clarification from the government.
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