The Alberta government is providing an additional $11 million this year for an action plan to reduce wait times for scans. This is on top of a $33 million increase from last year.
The number of Albertans waiting for a computerized tomography (CT) scan dropped by almost 24 per cent from March 2020 to June 2022. The decrease for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is 13 per cent. The wait for both types of scans dropped despite a sharp increase in demand.
AHS facilities performed nearly 20,000 MRI and CT scans combined in the first two weeks of September, compared with an average of about 17,000 in 2018/2019. That includes a 16 per cent increase in CT scans and about 10 per cent more MRI scans.
“More Albertans are getting CT and MRI scans, which in turn means getting their diagnosis and the needed follow-up care,” said Jason Copping, minister of health. “It’s a step in the right direction and shows meaningful progress in reducing the overall waitlist. We know we still need to do better, and we are moving ahead with the action plan in place so more Albertans can get their scans within the clinically recommended time.”
“AHS is working hard to provide more diagnostic scans to Albertans faster,” said Mauro Chies, interim president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services. “I’m grateful to all the staff and physicians involved in this work, and Albertans should know that we are committed to making sure they have appropriate access to scans when they need them.”
Patients who urgently require an MRI or CT scan generally receive one within days of request. Albertans who were in the urgent priority 1 group for CTs are now getting their scans sooner, compared with the past two years.
Currently, about 62 per cent of urgent MRIs are done within seven days, compared with 51 per cent in 2018/2019. For urgent CT scans, about 79 per cent are completed within seven days, compared with 71 per cent in 2018/2019.
AHS facilities completed about 19,860 exams in the two-week period ending Sept. 11, compared with the two-week average of 17,110 scans in 2018/2019.
For MRI scans, AHS performed about 8,535 exams in the two-week period ending Sept. 11, compared with 7,725 two-week average scans prior to the pandemic.
There has been a sharp increase in demand for emergency CT scans for COVID-19 patients, coupled with a global shortage of contrast material.
Each year, Alberta spends about $1 billion on diagnostic imaging, which includes ultrasounds, X-rays, mammography, MRI and CT scans.