In his role as Portage la Prairie MLA, Jeff Bereza sees many people reach out to him with concerns in the community. Portage Hospital's full complement of doctors recently contacted him a couple of weeks ago. It was about the lack of slating an MRI for our new hospital. The professionals have weighed in. 

"They give us some information that I didn't necessarily know and I'm not sure if we knew as a province," notes Bereza. "There was some pretty compelling information. One of the things that they talked about was accessibility to get to MRIs."

Along with talks with the medical professionals, Bereza says it connected to information he learned from Indigenous leaders.  

"Today (at the time of the interview) it's raining and wet out. In order to drive out of Dakota Plains, you would need a four-wheel drive. So, if a person had an appointment for an MRI that currently exists at Boundary Trails, there's a pretty good chance they're not going to make it there. When we first started looking at the Portage Regional Hospital here, the information that come out was that there were 1,300 MRIs that were completed from this area. What wasn't talked about was the number of MRIs that were cancelled or missed appointments."

Regarding transportation, he notes that if somebody is in very poor health or doesn't have the proper transportation, they may have to go to Boundary Trails or into Winnipeg for an MRI using an ambulance or a stretcher service. This may pose problems.

"If the ambulances are not there, because they're out working on something else, that's a cancelled appointment. With the MRIs the way that they currently are, you could be waiting six or eight months for an appointment. If the ambulance wasn't there, it could be another six to eight months of further waiting. . It can also help with, hopefully, earlier diagnoses. With a new MRI here in Portage la Prairie, what it would do is take the burden off of some of the other machines throughout the province, as well."

He explains the doctors informed him that people come here from Headingley for appointments, seeing as it's more convenient. He notes those same people are also excited about a new hospital here.

"I talked to Southport Aerospace about this, as well. We have a great airport out there that has the ability to take medevac (private, fast medical flights) flights in. So again, if people were needing MRIs coming out of the north, they could actually fly into Southport. Our hospital is two or three kilometres away where they could have their MRI, get back on the plane, and get back home. If they have to go to Winnipeg, they fly in on Perimeter Airlines, and have to find a way to the Health Sciences Centre. There are added costs and also added stress. The stress of going through something like an MRI involves a very loud machine, making it very intimidating, especially if you're going through a medical issue that you're dealing with."

Bereza says Portage's central location would make it a prime hub for MRI work, and with the new hospital, make a real impact on our healthcare system across the province.

"I can't thank the doctors enough for reaching out to me. And it wasn't just one doctor; it was all of the doctors that reached out regarding the MRI. The information that the previous government had was the number of MRIs that were completed. We didn't look at how many were missed and how many were missed because of transportation, or how many were missed because people felt uncomfortable going to one place or another. I have to say, Southern Health-Santé Sud is a pretty big region. In the southern part of Southern Health, we run into things. In the south, there is roughly a three to five per cent Indigenous population. Up here in the northern part of Southern Health, we have a much higher Indigenous population."

He explains he spoke with the chiefs from Long Plains, Dakota Tipi, Swan Lake, and others, and learned that they feel it would be much easier to get to Portage la Prairie than find transportation to get to Winnipeg or Boundary Trails.

"Because of our population demographics, it relieves that stress level somewhat out there, too. We'll help grow with our healthcare system. What if people are in there at an earlier time? Our diagnosis is quicker. We can maybe have a look at these medical incidents that they might have and actually be able to save the system some money."

"My constituency here is Portage la Prairie. I'm here to serve all of the people. When the docs reached out to me and come up with this information, it's a very compelling case. It's something that we should be moving forward with here at this time because I know, from building Stride Place, we wanted to build as much as we could at the time. To add things on later, means much more money. We know that we're in the midst of the process of building the new Portage la Prairie District General Hospital. Now is the time to move ahead with this." 

Bereza stresses it's a non-partisan issue and hopes it remains that way. 

"It's a need. With healthcare, it crosses all boundaries. It crosses all political parties. And it'll help our healthcare system in Portage, as well."

A petition has been created for you here in Portage so that you can have your say.

"You'll see many petitions out in many local businesses here. You'll be able to sign them at my office, which is right beside Red Apple. We'll have petition forms available there and there'll be petitions spread all over Portage and all over the Portage constituency. It's doing what we need to do for our constituency here and I think that this is really a good opportunity to move forward for Portage la Prairie. Things like MRIs have an economic impact. People want to come where there are great healthcare facilities and we're building a fantastic project right now. Let's make sure that we finish it off properly."

Two other hospital projects are taking place at the moment apart from ours here in Portage. Boundary Trails has an MRI machine while Neepawa does not. Most of the MRIs are located in Winnipeg. 

The doctors' letter to the Premier:

Read the PDF of Doctors' letter to Premier.