Road-trips Are Bad News for Bum Knees

Natassja Anto-Keshen


Some time ago, Ken Klikach (building inspector for Tumbler Ridge) hurt his knee on the job. The injury was severe, and made it impossible for him to continue in his duties without seriously and permanently harming himself.

The result of which meant that he had to apply to WorkSafeBC to be compensated for the time he couldn’t work. This all depended of course, on Klikach being able to verify his claims with an MRI.

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and is one of the services provided under the terms of Expedited Medical Imaging Services (EMIS). MRI is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to look into the body. MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to form images. The technique is used for medical diagnosis, staging of disease and for follow-up.

Having an MRI would allow WorkSafeBC to determine how much time (read: money) will be needed before Klikach could get healthy and back to work. This shouldn’t be a problem, since there are plenty of facilities in the Peace Region that have MRI facilities. According to Klikach however, WorkSafe insisted on Vancouver as the go-to spot. For a man with an injured knee, trekking all the way down there was just not feasible. Especially when you add the cost of the trip, accommodations, and gas or plane tickets for what should be a quick day trip. Klikach balked at this suggestion but WorkSafe held firm, which brought a frustrated Klikach to council to make a presentation asking the question: Why can’t we do this closer to home? What’s wrong with our facilities?

This is a question that affects our whole community, especially with so many people living here involved in harsh physical labour. When contacted, Megan Johnston of WorkSafeBC explained that “Access to timely diagnostic services and treatment for injured workers is a priority for WorkSafeBC as it aids in their recovery time and their return to work.”

This seems reasonable, but is certainly not new information. Having facilities closer to hand than the Lower Mainland would obviously be helpful, and on this subject Johnston said “WorkSafeBC does access MRI services at public hospitals in Northern BC, mostly in Prince George, but access is limited because we can’t contract for expedited services with public facilities.” That must be the hitch. It is hard to get advance notice to make an appointment for accidents since they are, by nature, unexpected.

Johnston continues “To ensure timely access to MRIs, we have a contract for expedited imaging services (MRIs and CT scans) with a network of providers. These providers are located primarily in the Lower Mainland, but include providers in Kelowna, Calgary and Vancouver Island.” This explains why they asked Klikach to go all the way to Vancouver. But it doesn’t explain why we don’t have more providers in our neighborhood. Johnston says “We recognize that it is preferable for injured workers to access MRI services in their local community. However, there is a shortage of facilities in Northern BC; so many injured workers in that region have to travel when they require MRI services.”

It seems like there is a pretty obvious solution to this problem, and WorkSafe is working on it. Johnston says “WorkSafeBC is very receptive to proposals from companies that meet the criteria and are interested in becoming a contracted imaging provider in Northern BC.” It is interesting to note that, in fact, WorkSafeBC put out a Request for Qualification document (55 pages!) in December, 2013 asking for facilities interested in becoming official WorkSafeBC providers in Nanaimo, Kamloops, Cranbrook, or in our local Prince George area to submit their applications. It looks like they’re reaching out. Successful applicants will be accredited with the Diagnostic Accreditation Program of the College of Physicians & Surgeons of British Columbia, which will allow them to work with WorkSafeBC. The accreditation process will essentially qualify them to perform Expedited Medical Imaging Services including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computerized Axial Tomography (CT or CAT scans), and Ultrasounds up to WorkSafe’s specifications. Which is all well and good, but where does that leave Klikach?

After much discussion, Klikach ended up being able to submit his information to WorkSafeBC from a Dawson Creek facility. A little patience and flexibility all around can help things move along, but the fact remains that when somebody is injured, the last thing they need is extra stress brought on by travelling long distances and wading through great lakes of bureaucracy. The system is not complicated for its own sake; it is simply an unfortunate necessity. But having more facilities closer to home would be a huge shot in the arm for anybody who might find themselves hurt, and unable to work. From what WorkSafeBC has to say it seems like this is a priority, and like many of our facilities and resources, it is a work in progress.