Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) service at the national referral hospital in Thimphu will be further delayed by a few more months due to logistics problems.

Since October last year, the hospital was not able to provide the service as the only MRI machine in the country was in the process of upgradation from 1.5T GE Signa HD MRI to Signa Explorer system.

The service was expected to resume last month.

MRI is a safe, painless test that uses radio waves and energy from strong magnets to create detailed images of a body.

Medical superintendent, Dr Gosar Pemba, said that while the logistics and upgradation work was going on, it was difficult to say when exactly the service would resume.

He said that this was because the work required many engineers. “Different component of the machine requires a specific engineer and the experts all come from India.”

He said that engineers fix a component of the machine and then go back to India. 

“Our people cannot do the work and even if they could, they are not allowed,” he said. “The work could go on until April.”

The hospital received about five truckloads of machine part in January. However, before installing the equipment, a radio frequency (RF) test has to be conducted. The hospital failed the test and had to dismantle the ceiling and do re-panelling of the room.

Prabha Katel, head of hospital’s bio-medical engineering services, in an earlier interview with Kuensel, said that all high-end medical equipment had certain pre-installation requirements.

She said that it was important to fulfil the requirement for the safety of the patients and staff. “How soon we can complete the installation of the machine would depend on the time to complete the civil part of the work. The actual installation work could take about 15 days.”

Once the civil work is complete, RF test would be conducted again.

Prabha Katel said that had the hospital passed the RF test, the hospital would have resumed the service by January as planned.

The patients who require MRI service are told to wait for the service; those patients who urgently require MRI service are sent to Siliguri in India.

MRI service requirement normally is not a serious matter, Prabha Katel, said. “More than half of the cases can be handled by CT scans.”

As of January, there were about 300 patients waiting for the service.

Dechen Tshomo