Slow MRIs come with calendar caution

Less urgent scans can take more than 12 months, so patients are warned not to come a year too early

A supervisor with an MRI scanner at Peace Arch Hospital.

Lower Mainland patients are waiting so long for non-urgent MRI scans that they’re cautioned to carefully note the year of their appointment on notices.

One notification obtained by Black Press for a scan in April 2016 at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Centre includes a prominent warning to “please note the YEAR of the appointment” in addition to a second reference to “note year 2016.”

NDP health critic Judy Darcy said she’s aware of cases where patients got MRI appointments more than 12 months away and mistakenly showed up a year too soon.

“It’s because some patients show up the wrong year,” said Darcy, calling it more evidence MRI waits are unacceptably long.

A snapshot of MRI wait times for Fraser Health released through a freedom of information request shows that as of mid-August, the average wait for the least urgent (priority 4) patients was more than seven months and one out of 10 of those patients faced a wait of at least 15 months.

Just 15 per cent of Fraser patients were scheduled for an MRI within 60 days, which is the priority 4 target the health region strives for and the benchmark set by the Canadian Radiological Association.

“The reason for that benchmark is your risk for further deterioration increases after that,” Darcy said.

Long waits for MRIs also delay diagnosis and getting a place in often-lengthy surgery wait lines.

“You can’t get treated until you have your problem diagnosed,” Darcy said. “The longer you wait for treatment, the more serious your condition becomes and the more it costs the health care system in the end.”

She said B.C.’s MRI waits are the worst in Canada.

Health Minister Terry Lake, responding to a question in the Legislature about MRI delays, said the province is “working very hard” with health authorities to shorten waits.

“There are people waiting longer than we would like for some of these procedures.”

Fraser Health performed 41,347 MRIs last year, an increase of 7.5 per cent from 2013.

“Although the number of MRI procedures in Fraser Health has increased, so too has the demand for MRI procedures – not just at Fraser Health but across B.C.,” said Sue Avery, executive director of medical imaging for the Lower Mainland health authorities, in an emailed statement.

“It is important to note that benchmarks are currently being met for emergent cases.”

Urgent cases (priority 1 and 2) do get done rapidly – most happen within their respective targets of 24 hours and seven days.

But the lower priority 3 cases, which are to be done within 30 days, are waiting four and a half months on average and just 18 per cent of them meet the benchmark.

Even the lowest priority MRI scans should not be considered frivolous, Darcy said.

“I’ve spoken with seniors who’ve been waiting a year to two years to diagnose a hearing problem. It’s not life threatening. But boy oh boy it affects their quality of life.”

Darcy argues the waits could be drastically shortened if the province was willing to staff and run MRI machines at later hours when they currently sit idle.

“There is no reason why people could not come in at other times – including late at night – to get an MRI,” she said. “We need to use our diagnostic equipment to its full capacity.”

 

 

 

Just Posted

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Air quality advisory continues in the Lower Mainland

Smoke from Interior fires brings fine particulate

Sometimes it’s okay to simply try

I feel like a success even though I failed at donating blood

Fraser Valley fire departments form ‘strike teams’ to combat wildfires

Boston Bar, Chilliwack River Valley and Popkum departments form strike teams to fight wildfires

RCMP nab prolific car thief in Agassiz after month-long search

A province-wide warrant was issued for Brian Robert Stephan in June for a litany of offences

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Vancouver Whitecaps give up late goal in 2-2 draw with New York Red Bulls

Four of Vancouver’s next five games are at home

B.C. man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

Lions give up late TD in 24-23 loss to Argos

B.C. falls to 3-5, fumbling away last-minute chance in Toronto

Eagle tree cut down legally a 1st for B.C. city

Planned eagle preserve ‘a first for City of Surrey’

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Most Read