No MRI until mid-March

By Charlotte Wooldridge | posted on February 27, 2020

ALBANY’S first and only MRI machine is currently on lockdown after an internal water leak at Albany Health Campus.

All appointments have been cancelled and rescheduled, with patients either being sent to receive a CT scan in its place, or being asked to travel to Perth for a bulk- billed MRI.

Great Southern Radiology CEO Glen Marshall said he was alerted to the issue on Saturday.

“I just got the phone call on Saturday morning to say that there was water in our MRI room which is quite strange,” he said.

“Our technicians flew down on Sunday from Perth, they’ve been here up until lunch time today and they’ve checked out the machine.

“The [MRI] is fully operational, so that’s a fantastic outcome for the machine.”

Despite the good news for the expensive piece of tech, it’s structural damage to the room itself that has halted all use of the MRI.

“Because it’s such a technical piece of equipment it actually lives inside a copper room,” Mr Marshall said.

“So now what we need to do is to test the integrity of that copper room, because what’s happened is the water has flooded and effected the floorboards, they’ve stretched and that’s stretched the copper casing, and we now need to make sure it hasn’t separated anywhere.”

The copper casing is an essential aspect of the room as it prevents an excessive amount of electromagnetic radiation from distorting the MR signal.

It also stops the electromagnetic radiation generated by the MR scanner from causing interference in other nearby medical devices.

Great Southern Radiology conducts approximately 10 to 12 MRI scans per day, with around 100 appointments expected to be impacted.

A spokeswoman for WA Country Health Service confirmed the water leak, and advised that the equipment will be examined.

“In line with the WA Country Health Service’s (WACHS) unwavering commitment to patient safety, all technology housed within the area will now undergo a safety review,” she said.

“This includes the facility’s MRI machine.

“In the interim, WACHS is providing alternative imaging pathways for patients and working with Great Southern Radiology where appropriate noting there are currently no urgent cases waitlisted for an MRI.”

While all appointments are being diverted and rescheduled, the loss of the machine comes after years of campaigning, petitioning and bipartisan and community support to get the device to Albany in the first place.

Mr Marshall said the installation of the machine in 2014 was a step in the right direction for health in the Great Southern.

“It was a real win for Albany,” he said.

But as a $2m piece of machinery, it’s likely to be the only MRI in Albany for a while yet.

“It’s the unfortunate problem of living in a regional town.

“Occasionally equipment is affected and we need to make best use of what we’ve got.

“We’ve had no major issues before this at all.”

Appointments with Great Southern Radiology are estimated to be running again in mid-March.