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Boy facing 2½-year wait gets MRI

Brenda Oldford got a call from the hospital late Monday afternoon, telling her that a patient had not shown up at the Health Care Corporation of St. John's the day before the scan as required, which created an opening for Ryan.

So her rambunctious blue-eyed, blond boy -- whose waiting-list plight touched Canadians -- showed up at the doorstep of the hospital early yesterday morning. He was put under a general anesthetic and received his magnetic resonance imaging scan. Mrs. Oldford said everything went fine and that she is very relieved it is over.

"As a mother, I can make no apologies for wanting and demanding the best for my child," she said last night by phone from the St. John's suburb of St. Philip's. "As a nurse and a Canadian, I wish this entire system worked this way for everybody. Ryan's segment is closed but this problem is a lot bigger than Ryan."

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Until yesterday, Ryan was one of 100 children in Newfoundland who faced a 2½ -year wait for the high-tech scan. Geoffrey Higgins, clinical chief of diagnostic imaging at the Health Care Corporation of St. John's, has described the wait as "less than ideal" but said patients' conditions are being investigated and followed by other medical means and that anyone who needs an emergency scan gets one.

Ryan's scan was requested by a geneticist who suspects the boy has a rare syndrome that puts him at higher risk for cancers of the kidney and liver.

Across Canada, there are about 2,000 children waiting three to 30 months for MRI scans, according to Normand Laberge, chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Radiologists. The average wait for a child is 12 months.

"Ryan's case is exposing what's not working in our system," Mr. Laberge said in a telephone interview from Montreal. "What the article has done is shown how we are abandoning kids on waiting lists with pretty important pathology. That cannot be accepted."

Ryan's case touched Canadians, who offered their MRI spots, cash or simply inquired about his well-being. At one point, Mrs. Oldford was looking to the United States for her son to get the scan, as there was no possibility of him being able to get care comparable to a hospital at a private MRI clinic in Canada. The Timmins and District Hospital even offered to fly the boy to the Northern Ontario city from St. John's.

"We would have paid for the whole shot," Claude Vezina, medical director of the hospital's diagnostic imaging department, said yesterday.

"It was very difficult for us to read the article and see a fellow Canadian to be asked to wait 30 months for that study. I know of no patient who would wait 30 months for a mammogram or for surgery, for that matter."

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A spokesperson for the Health Care Corporation of St. John's could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mrs. Oldford said she repeatedly told the hospital she needed only last-minute notice for Ryan to have his scan. As it turned out, one person cancelled the scan and the other spot, which Ryan obtained, was a no-show.

"The cancellation was filled and they had already looked throughout the day and needed someone who could put their name down for the no-show," she said yesterday. "They needed to have someone there at 8 o'clock in the morning."

Last night, she described her son as waking up from the anesthetic. She was hopeful the MRI results would be available for an appointment with the geneticist in April.

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