SASKATOON -- The Saskatchewan Health Authority has awarded a contract to Mayfair Diagnostics to deliver publicly-funded, community-based MRI services in Saskatoon and to continue providing MRI services in Regina.

“Improving access to advanced medical imaging to Saskatchewan residents, including MRI, is a priority for our government,” Health Minister Jim Reiter said in a news release. “Expanding community-based MRI services to Saskatoon will benefit thousands of additional patients in central and northern Saskatchewan each year and help meet the growing demand for MRI exams across the province.”

The province has increased MRI capacity by 11 per cent in the last three years, but demand has increased by 28 per cent, he said.

"Our waitlists have got longer and we don't want to see that happen so we need to rectify that. We think this is a significant step forward in addressing that."

The clinic will be used primarily for patients who are at a lower level for emergency care while patients needing immediate help will be sent to nearby hospitals.

Mayfair Diagnostics will provide a minimum of 4,500 exams per year in Saskatoon, the province says. Services are expected to begin in Saskatoon in August 2020.

Saskatchewan has seen a growing number of patients referred for MRI in recent years, from around 39,000 patients in 2016 to 46,000 patients in 2019. To help address increasing demand and wait times, the province says it has invested in adding capacity and expanded hours of operation for MRI services in Regina and Saskatoon.

In 2019-20, the Saskatchewan Health Authority budgeted around $141.4 million for medical imaging services.