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Government announces plan to reduce MRI/CT wait times

    TORONTO, July 8 /CNW/ - Ontario's Health and Long-Term Minister Tony
Clement today announced plans to provide up to 20 new Magnetic Resonance
Imaging (MRI) machines and five new Computed Tomography (CT) scanners.
    It is estimated that thousands of patients across the province will
benefit every year from this announcement and will bring the total number of
funded MRI machines up to 63 from 12 in 1995.
    The new MRI machines and CT scanners will operate through the existing
Independent Health Facilities Act (IHFA), within Ontario's universally
accessible publicly funded health care system.
    "What this means to patients all across Ontario is that the latest
diagnostics tools will be available to you faster than ever before, reducing
the frustration of wait times," said Clement.
    This follows the government's budget commitment to improve accessibility
to diagnostic services. As part of last week's $645 million increase to
hospitals, the government committed an additional $28.3 million to increase
the hours of operation for hospital MRI machines by 90 per cent.
    Last summer's Public Dialogue, the largest public consultation in the
province's history with some 400,000 respondents, asked the Ontario government
to improve access to diagnostic tools and reduce patient wait times. These
announcements are a significant step toward that goal.
    "We will be addressing the specific needs of those in under-serviced
areas who have asked our government for faster access to things like MRIs,"
said Clement. "Since IHFs were introduced in 1990, they have provided patients
with faster, quality access to x-rays and ultrasounds in a universal publicly
funded system, MRIs and CTs are just the next generation of these machines."
    There are close to 1,000 IHFs operating in Ontario, delivering many
diagnostic services, such as x-rays and ultrasounds. These services are
covered by OHIP and available free of charge to OHIP-insured patients.
    A Request For Proposals (RFP) process is anticipated to begin later this
summer.


    Backgrounder
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                        INDEPENDENT HEALTH FACILITIES

                               THE RFP PROCESS

    The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care is anticipating issuing one or
more Request For Proposals (RFP) under the Independent Health Facilities Act
to allow magnetic resource imaging (MRI) and CT scans to be provided by
independent health facilities (IHFs).
    If the Minister decides to authorize the Director of Independent Health
Facilities to issue the RFP for MRI and CT services, the specifics of the
request and the RFP process, e.g. the technical requirements, location of
potential sites, format of the proposal, contact names for bidders, evaluation
process and evaluation criteria, will be contained in the documents. It is
anticipated that operators will be allowed to provide MRI and CT services
outside hospitals, whether insured or uninsured, only through this process.
    The details of the RFP process and specific requirements for the
proposals themselves cannot be disclosed until the RFP is issued. Once issued,
specific proposals can be discussed only between the proposer (respondent) and
the Ministry's designated RFP Coordinator. The name of the RFP Coordinator and
contact information will be provided in the RFP. RFPs are issued on the MERX
system -- an electronic tendering system on the internet.
    The RFP process will involve a competitive bid for the establishment of a
facility. The RFP document sets out the Ministry's requirements for the
delivery of the service and the evaluation criteria to be used in choosing the
winning proposal.
    Potential respondents to the RFP are generally given approximately two
months to develop their proposals and an information session (also referred to
as a bidder's conference) will be held approximately two weeks following the
issuance of the RFP and well before the deadline for bids to be accepted.
After the deadline for submitting proposals, the Ministry will require one
month to evaluate proposals.
    Following selection of the winning respondents, time will be allowed for
the facility to become operational and for the College of Physicians and
Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) to conduct a pre-licensing inspection. If
successful as the result of the RFP process, and in a pre-licensing
inspection, an operator will be issued a licence to provide services specified
in the licence at that site for up to five years, after which time the licence
may be renewed.
    The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care uses a continuous quality
improvement approach to monitor services provided in IHFs. Clinical practice
parameters and facility standards for each type of currently licensed IHF
service have been developed and published by CPSO. As IHFs are licensed to
perform new types of services, such as MRIs or CT scans, new clinical practice
parameters and facility standards will be developed.
    It is expected that assessors appointed by the CPSO will access each
licensed IHF at least once per licence term. Each facility selected through
the RFP process will undergo a pre-licensing inspection to ensure the quality
of care, and that facility will be licensed only if it passes such an
inspection.

    IHFs may be:

    - diagnostic facilities that are funded by the Ministry to provide
      specific classes of diagnostic imaging, pulmonary function or sleep
      study tests, or

    - ambulatory care facilities providing surgical and therapeutic
      procedures for which the costs of carrying out the procedure may not
      included in the OHIP fee paid to physicians. Currently licensed
      facilities include dialysis, abortion, laser dermatologic surgery and
      ophthalmic, vascular, plastic and gynaecologic surgery.

    Facilities may be established in a variety of settings, e.g., completely
free-standing, located on the site of an existing health facility (e.g.,
public hospital, community health centre or doctor's office), or located in a
multi-office complex. Some facilities are operated on a mobile basis at
specifically approved sites. An IHF may be either for profit or not for
profit.





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For further information: contact: Dan Strasbourg, (416) 314-6197, 
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care; If you're a member of the general 
public, and require more information, please call: (416) 327-4327 or 
toll-free: (800) 268-1154