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

Newly elected Hope politicians took part in the Local Government Leadership Academy

The three-day event is aimed at helping new mayors and councillors navigate municipal politics

No records were beat, but Hope’s February temperatures aren’t average

Normally around 3C, the sub-zero temperatures made for both good and bad in the Fraser Valley

Opioid overdoses killing three people a month in Chilliwack

35 deaths in 2018 locally compare to 23 in 2017, 13 in 2016 up from about five per year before that

More people in Chiliwack coming in to shelters to get out of the cold

Ruth and Naomi’s went over-capacity this week to accommodate shelter guests coming in from the cold

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Man taken to hospital for smoke inhalation, burns after fire at RV park

Firefighters find man suffering from smoke inhalation, burns to face and hands: battalion chief

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers

COG organizers said the hope is to return to the Okanagan in 2020

Most Read