Alberta Health Services says more MRIs are being done at Red Deer Regional Hospital — not less — despite a claim by the union representing MRI technologists that the lab has cut two appointments per day.
Peter Froese, executive director of diagnostic imaging outside Edmonton and Calgary with AHS, said the hospital has recently focused on getting hospital patients tested when appointments open up over outpatients who are referred by their doctors.
“We’re always adjusting the system to make sure the urgents get done in the proper time frame,” Froese said. “We’re constantly juggling patients slots. We haven’t cut back on anything.”
About 900 MRIs are done each month, with some performed under contract at Central Alberta Imaging Services.
MRIs for the most urgent patients should be done within seven days and Red Deer is getting that done for the most part, he said.
The next priority patient is generally seen within the 30-day goal, but it is difficult to get the lowest priority patient an MRI within the recommended 16 weeks.
“We’re not getting that. There’s very few places in the province that are.”
In January, 90 per cent of those clients where getting MRIs within 19 weeks, he said.
But the hospital has increased the number of MRIs performed by about 10 per cent.
In April, May and June a total of 2,659 MRIs were done, compared to 2,445 the same time last year.
“There’s not been a reduction in any service. Since last year, we increased considerably,” Froese said.
Scott Pattison, communication officer with the union representing MRI technologists, said the hospital has done a good job getting MRIs for the most urgent cases.
“They’re aggressively tackling them and they’re manageable,” said Pattison of Health Sciences Association of Alberta.
But the time line for the lowest level cases hasn’t been good with some now scheduled for next February, he said.
Pattison said the MRI lab has reduced the hours it’s open because of Alberta Health Services’ deficit.
“We haven’t had any direction to reduce our service in MRI,” Froese said.
Pattison said more people from other parts of the province are also seeking MRIs in Red Deer.
“They’re seeing a big, a huge, increase in requisitions from doctors and patients from Edmonton and Calgary, as far away as the Saskatchewan border and B.C. borders, trying to circumvent the long wait lists in their particular region by going through Red Deer.”
Froese said there have always been some people from other parts of Alberta getting health care service in Red Deer.