Senior MRI Technologist Tom Hocking with Michael Garron Hospital's new MRI
Tom Hocking, Senior MRI Technologist

A new MRI for East Toronto

While an MRI technically belongs to a hospital, it’s really something that benefits the whole community. So when Berna and Myron Garron chose to direct part of their donation to a new MRI, they made a gift of health to everyone in East Toronto.

MRIs are critical hospital equipment – if you’ve never had an MRI scan, chances are you eventually will. They allow physicians to diagnose illnesses, monitor disease progression, and provide treatment for a spectrum of health conditions from arthritis to cancer. And yet these multi-million dollar machines are typically not funded with government dollars. Since there is not exactly an abundance of MRIs, long wait times are common. Hospitals must often purchase these machines with donor support.

Kevin Edmonson, Director, Emergency and Diagnostic Imaging at Michael Garron Hospital sums it up this way.

 “I live in the east end, and this is my hospital,” he says. “So it’s personally important to me that the one MRI serving East Toronto should be good.”

And the new MRI is exceptionally good. The machine –manufactured by Siemens and known as the very best in its class – had a long journey to East Toronto. It was loaded on to a flat-bed truck at the Siemens factory in Erlangen, Germany and onto a plane for a week-and-a-half-long, 6,500-kilometre trip before it was delivered on November 10.

Accommodating the 4.5-ton machine wasn’t easy. A large opening needed to be cut in the side of the hospital so the MRI could be hoisted in with a crane. Complicating this already delicate operation was the location of the MRI suite relative to the hospital campus – the MRI needed to be inserted in a narrow alleyway between the hospital’s power plant and the K-wing building while active construction was happening to prepare for the hospital redevelopment. Thanks to the quick thinking of engineers on the hospital’s redevelopment team – who oversaw the MRI installation – the MRI made it safely into the building on a wet November morning.

The cutting-edge machine replaces the hospital’s aging MRI, a “workhorse” that has served the community since 2002. It operates 7 days a week between 7 AM and 11 PM, scanning approximately 25-35 patients a day. Due in part to its age, the current machine is down for a half a day each month for servicing, which limits the number of patients it can accommodate.

MRIs are often stressful procedures, as patients must remain completely still for up to an hour while lying in a narrow bore inside the magnet. Claustrophobia is a common concern, as is the noise from the machine. And some patients with obesity can’t undergo the procedure due to the relatively low weight limit on the current machine.

When it is operational in January, the new MRI will be an improvement on many levels, especially patient experience. The bore is larger, meaning it will be more comfortable and able to accommodate larger patients. It will also scan significantly faster, which will mean less time in the machine and shorter wait times, which are currently up to 6 months for patients with less serious but still life-altering conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. And perhaps most importantly, image quality will be greatly improved, meaning more precise diagnoses for a wide range of conditions.

The MRI is a point of pride for diagnostic imaging staff, who are “ecstatic” about the new equipment.

“We all take a lot of pride in providing the best care to patients,” said Tom Hocking, Senior MRI Technologist. “So our team is very excited about the new machine. To be able to have a brand-new Siemens machine at Michael Garron Hospital is a big deal. It’s revitalized coming into work - we can’t wait until January!”

Tom is also grateful to the Garrons for their generosity.

“Thank you so much to Berna and Myron Garron for their investment in this new technology,” he says. “This machine is truly top-of-the-line and it will help us serve patients so much better. It’s exciting.”