A new agreement between two of eastern New Brunswick’s largest health providers is expected to curb wait times for MRIs.

Under the arrangement, the Georges-Dumont Hospital will accept MRI patients from the Moncton Hospital. To offset the cost, the province will increase the Dumont's operating budget by $427,000 annually. This will allow for more than 2,000 additional MRIs each year.

Newly-minted New Brunswick Health Minister Benoît Bourque says the deal has been in the works for years.

“There are currently two MRI machines currently working now, and we're adding a third one to the system in the City of Moncton,” says Bourque.

Gary Foley, vice-president of clinical services at Horizon Health Network, says transfers are already underway.

“To date we have referred 300 patient consults, and these are encouraging results,” says Foley. “Quicker access to MRI services, regardless which hospital you are a patient, allows everyone to get the care they require as quickly as possible.”

“At the end of the day, if you have a family member, a friend, a loved one that is sick or injured, there's not much else that would matter in your view at that point,” says New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant.

A study released last year by the Fraser Institute found the Maritimes have the longest wait times in Canada for medical treatment, with New Brunswick averaging 38 weeks.

“Patient care is at the centre of everything we do. It's what drives us and moves us forward,” Foley says.

Similar transfer agreements could be on the way. Bourque hinted at more shared services down the road but didn't provide specifics, only saying he hopes the news comes sooner rather than later.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Cami Kepke.