MRI wait times lag provincial average in three out of four of the region's hospitals | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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MRI wait times lag provincial average in three out of four of the region's hospitals

FILE PHOTO- PRH medical imaging technologist Shawn Kisch demonstrate the abilities of Penticton's new permanent MRI on test patient Nadia Wojcik.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Interior Health
November 29, 2019 - 6:30 AM

If you’re anxiously awaiting a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) exam, at any of the four major hospitals in Kamloops and the Okanagan, you’ll find the wait much shorter in Vernon than in Penticton, where wait times are currently almost three times as long.

Interior Health’s Program Director of Medical Imaging, Tim Rode, said in an email this week average waits for outpatient MRI exams in November for the region’s major hospitals were as follows:

  • Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, 69 days
  • Vernon’s Jubilee Hospital, 52 days
  • Kelowna General Hospital, 96 days
  • Penticton Regional Hospital, 137 days

Data from the provincial health ministry for the last reporting period indicates the median time for MRI waits across the province was 55 days.

Only Vernon’s Jubilee Hospital has wait times faster than the provincial median.

Wait times at Penticton Regional Hospital are particularly troublesome, even after resolution of problems that plagued the hospital’s new in-house machine when the new patient care tower opened earlier this year.

Early issues with Penticton’s new MRI facility have since been resolved and the MRI service at the hospital is fully operational, but Interior Health says MRI scheduling at the hospital still isn't good enough.

“We are not where we want to be yet at PRH, but we are working to reduce wait times for patients. We have been ramping up our testing and are working to clear the backlog. As the number of exams with the new system at PRH continues to increase, the wait times will come down,” Rode says.

MRI exams are up 34.5 per cent in the province since 2016/17, from 173,678 in 2016/17 to 233,369 in 2018/19.

Rode says Interior Health recognizes that waits for MRI exams are frustrating for patients and their physicians.

“We understand the importance of having good access to MRIs. IH has made MRI testing top priority,” he says.

Interior Health has added three new MRI machines over the last year and a half and have doubled the number of facilities with permanent MRI machines with new units in Penticton, Vernon and Cranbrook.

Although not considered an emergency diagnostic tool anyone who requires an urgent exam will get their MRI quickly, Rode says.

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