Ultrasound wait time lengthens
Ultrasound patients in the MidCentral District Health Board region are again facing a mounting wait for treatment, after the installation of new technology.
In October the number of patients waiting for an ultrasound doubled to 195, according to a DHB report.
Those patients have already seen a hospital specialist and have been promised treatment within the five-month target set by the Government.
MidCentral District Health Board medical imaging team leader Di Orange said there were 1.7 fulltime sonographer positions and three fulltime trainees at MidCentral Health.
In addition to the workforce challenges, the demand for ultrasound services continues to increase.
"All urgent examinations are still being seen within established time frames," she said. "All ward patients are being seen the day of, or day following referral. Careful attention is given to the prioritisation of referrals to maintain patient safety."
In June the Manawatu Standard reported that some ultrasound patients had a nine-month wait ahead of them for treatment.
At that time the board was working to reduce the list, which peaked at 356 in January.
Ms Orange said the current medical imaging review across the MidCentral and Whanganui district health boards had put ultrasound as a priority area.
"However, the issues are longstanding and challenging, and will ultimately be supported by long-term solutions that involve different ways of working, including greater collaboration locally and regionally," she said.
"Scarcity of sonographers is recognised not only locally but also regionally, nationally and internationally.
"Waiting times have increased due to a decrease in sonographer availability, as a result of vacant positions."
Ms Orange said initiatives to reduce waiting times included increasing sonographers' working hours, filling vacancies through a central region approach, and holding some weekend sessions at Palmerston North and Dannevirke.
A list has also been created of patients who are available at short notice to fill slots caused by late cancellation of appointments.