Loretta Holmes

South Surrey woman to wait nearly two years for an MRI

Fraser Institute published a study on provincial wait times. British Columbians have the longest median wait time by province.

A 75-year-old South Surrey woman says it’s “ridiculous” that she has to wait almost two years for an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Loretta Holmes noticed a lump on her foot last spring. She went into a clinic where the doctor told her it looks like a ganglion cyst. The doctor recommended an ultrasound. She had an ultrasound “five or six months” after initially visiting the clinic. Holmes received the results from the ultrasound in October, and her doctor arranged an MRI.

“I phoned them to find out when I would have an MRI and I nearly had a fit,” she told Peace Arch News Tuesday afternoon.

Holmes was told her MRI was scheduled for Sept. 11, 2018, at the Peace Arch Hospital.

“I said ‘oh, you’re kidding me.’”

Holmes double-checked with the hospital’s MRI department to confirm her appointment.

“I mean, it’s not a life-or-death situation, but in two years I might not be here. I hope to be, but you never know at my age,” she said.

Holmes was added to the wait-list, and was told she would likely get in earlier.

“It’s probably nothing serious but when they said how long the wait is, I was amazed it was so long.”

Tasleem Juma, a spokesperson for Fraser Health, said MRI scheduling is priority-based, adding that there’s no wait for emergency MRIs.

“We understand it can be frustrating to wait for medical tests like MRIs. That is why we are working hard to increase the number of tests we provide each year by collaborating with the province and changing the way we deliver the service,” Juma said in an email to PAN. “We are on track to provide over 8,000 extra MRIs across the region this year.”

Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg encouraged Holmes to contact his constituency office so he can look into the matter.

“I haven’t heard of a two-year wait before. In fact, I don’t think I have heard one much more than a year wait,” he said Wednesday.

Hogg echoed Juma, saying MRIs are done on a priority-first basis.

“Someone phoned in who went to Peace Arch Hospital and had an MRI done in eight days. There’s a wide-range of numbers there. Provincially, we’ve increased the amount of money for MRIs and had a strategy for reducing the backlog,” Hogg said.

At this time last year, the provincial government announced a plan to increase the number of MRI exams performed annually by 45 per cent by year four of the provincial strategy. The province said budget allocations for MRIs will increase correspondingly, providing up to an additional $20 million in annual funding for the MRI services by year four.

Fraser Institute – a Vancouver-based public policy think-tank – published a study on national and provincial specialist wait times Wednesday.

The institute’s findings from the study reported that British Columbians have the longest median wait time by province at 25.2 weeks. To collect the data, Fraser Institute mailed questionnaires to 11,387 specialist doctors from 12 specialist fields. Out of that, there were 442 replies from B.C. specialists.

The study reported that British Columbians wait the longest (24 weeks) in Canada for an MRI.

The overall Canadian median waiting time for MRIs in the psychiatry survey was 11.5 weeks.

Holmes expressed a concern over several proposed and approved residential highrises slated for the South Surrey/White Rock area. She said she thinks the increase in density would add more stress to the Peace Arch Hospital health care system.

“This area, if you’ve noticed, they’re building up. They’re not building the hospitals up, are they? So you’ve got all these people coming in… All that building up but there’s no extra hospitals,” Holmes said.

(Disclosure: Holmes is related to a PAN staff member who did not assist with this article.)

The study, Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2016, can be found at www.fraserinstitute.org

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