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

Volunteers risk their lives to save others

SAR training prepares them for the job

Many moving parts to economic development

Tourism is only part of the answer

Window art a sign of the season

B.C. artist paints windows across the province

Get all your stocking stuffers, and the stockings, too

Beta Sigma Phi Christmas Craft Sale returns

VIDEO: Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival

This year’s event featured six stops, including viewing points and activity centres.

Methadone treatment not as effective for mentally ill, homeless: study

SFU study suggests unstable housing makes it hard to stick to treatment regimen

Wet weather expected for much of coastal B.C.

The Weather Network is calling for up to 200mm of rain to fall in some areas of the South Coast and Vancouver Island

B.C. reporter reflects on covering Charles Manson

Charles Manson, leader of a murderous cult, died on Sunday at 83

Port Mann, Golden Ears traffic up since tolls removed: report

City staff report says congestion woes easing on Pattullo Bridge as a result

Convicted child sex offender’s sixth lawyer resigns before sentencing

One time school board candidate Corey Neyrinck case delayed in BC Supreme Court yet again

ICBC overbilling for crash repairs not the problem, dealers say

Collision repair shops reject union claim of inflated costs

TransLink mulls distance-based fares, low-income discounts

Metro Vancouver transit agency launches final phase of fare review

B.C. groups to address child sex abuse in sports

viaSport is organizing a full day of education in association with Canadian Centre for Child Protection and the Coaching Association of Canada.

Most Read