Long wait times for MRIs and other diagnostic imaging tests identified in a new report is not as big an issue for Red Deer, according to local doctors.
A report released Thursday from the auditor general Doug Wylie found a lack of communication and inflexible funding rules have created broad differences in wait times among Alberta’s health regions for publicly funded outpatient tests.
Analysis showed that between April 2015 and March 2020, Alberta Health Services Central Zone had a 140 per cent increase in the waitlist for computed tomography (CT). The waitlist was worse in the other zones.
The waitlist for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) across Alberta has not increased as much. Calgary saw the biggest increase at 65 per cent, while the waitlist decreased by 15 per cent for Central Zone.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Wolstenholme said access to CTs and MRIs was good.
“The surgeons have a good working relationship with the radiologists and generally we get the advanced imaging in the time frame that we request,” Wolstenholme said.
Family physician Dr. Peter Bouch said recently a patient required an urgent MRI on his neck for his neurosurgeon and it was done the next day.
“If it’s needed it’s done for sure no problem. Some of the ones that they feel are probably not urgent, or not needed, might take a little longer, but there’s no harm in that,” Bouch said.
Regular scans to track a medical issue can also be ordered in advance so they can get done on time, he said.
In the report, Use of Publicly Funded CT and MRI Services, the auditor general also found AHS prioritization guidelines are not applied consistently across the province, and AHS does not have province-wide centralized intake which means one zone cannot take advantage of openings or book exams in other areas.
Wylie said AHS cannot implement some needed improvements unilaterally, and recommended Alberta Health work with AHS and stakeholders to assist both primary care and non-AHS clinicians in ordering exams.
“Notwithstanding our recommendations for improvement, it is important to note that Albertans successfully undergo CT and MRI exams every day, and the findings of our report do not suggest that people receiving these diagnostic services are not receiving quality healthcare as coordinated by physicians and medical professionals,” Wylie said in a statement.
To read the report visit www.oag.ab.ca.
— with files from The Canadian Press