For the past one year, the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine at the Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) has not been functional.
The machine installed at the HMC is a 1992 model and has been repaired many times over a period of several years. The repairs cost millions of rupees and last a year. However, Siemens, the company that manufactured the machine, has refused to repair it now because its parts are no longer manufactured.
Until 2009, the MRI machine was repaired at a cost of Rs5 million which increased to Rs6.5 million during 2010-2011. By May 2012, the cost had increased to Rs7.6 million while after that period Siemens estimated it would reach Rs30 million, said a doctor at the HMC, requesting anonymity.
“There is a certain level of helium gas which needs to be changed every three months. If the level of the gas drops below 45% it becomes very dangerous for the patient,” he explained.
He further said the hospital has held various meetings with government authorities but no results have been achieved so far.
When the machine was functional a year ago, the HMC on average conducted the test on 20 patients daily, at a minimal fee of Rs2,500. However, now the alternative for patients is the Khyber Teaching Hospital which is around six kilometres away, or private laboratories which charge a hefty Rs6,000 to Rs7,000 for an MRI.
“Installing an MRI machine with updated software which gives the result in 10 minutes will cost between Rs0.18-0.2 billion,” the doctor said. The latest one was installed at the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi. The new machines require repairs every 10 years, while the older models need to be maintained every three months, he added.
HMC Medical Superintendent Dr Said Ali Khan claimed the hospital has requested funds to purchase the latest model and they would be made available soon. “It is a serious concern for the hospital and we have brought it to the notice of all concerned officials. We expect to buy a new machine as soon as possible,” he maintained.
An MRI test uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio waves to make images of the body’s internal organs and tissues. In many cases it gives more accurate details of the presence of a disease as compared to X-rays, ultrasound or CT scans.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2013.