Edmonton hospitals cutting number of MRI scans due to budget problems

EDMONTON — The union representing Alberta health technologists says two Edmonton hospitals are being forced to cut back on MRI scans when waiting lists are already at critical levels.

EDMONTON — The union representing Alberta health technologists says two Edmonton hospitals are being forced to cut back on MRI scans when waiting lists are already at critical levels.

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta said in an news release Wednesday that MRI services at Edmonton’s Grey Nuns Hospital are being reduced by 15 per cent.

It also says the Misericordia Hospital is cancelling six weekends of MRI scans beginning Oct. 24.

The association says the reductions are due to funding cuts by Alberta Health Services.

Union president Elisabeth Ballermann says doing fewer MRI scans will hurt Albertans.

The association says Grey Nuns is reducing MRI scans to 778 per month from 900.

“MRI wait lists are already at unacceptable levels across Alberta,” says Ballerman. “This will directly impact the lives of patients who are battling life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer or significant trauma.”

Patients waiting for MRIs are categorized as Priority 1, 2 or 3. Priority 1 patients typically should be seen within one week, Priority 2 patients within two weeks and Priority 3 patients, often suffering from shoulder and knee problems, sometime thereafter.

The association says Edmonton’s University of Alberta Hospital currently has 21 Priority 1 patients and 335 Priority 2 patients on a wait list, the latter of whom are now being booked for December appointments.

Edmonton’s Misericordia Hospital currently has 22 Priority 1 patients on its wait list, appointments of which are now being booked into September.

A total of 853 Priority 2 patients will have to wait until the beginning of November to have an MRI scan performed, with another 986 Priority 3 cases being scheduled in December.

Further complicating its chronic wait lists, the Misericordia is shutting down its weekend MRI services for six weeks.

“Wait lists are expanding, not declining, yet here we have the Alberta government instructing its new CEO of Alberta Health Services (Dr. Stephen Duckett) to cut services to meet an unrealistic budget target,” said Ballermann.

“It’s time Albertans brought significant pressure to bear on this government, before the lives of their respective family members are put in jeopardy.”

Last week, Alberta Health Services announced a $1.1B budget deficit for this fiscal year, and an additional $1B deficit for 2010.

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