Ultrasound delays a 'longstanding' issue
A "please explain" directive to medical imaging staff has not brought MidCentral District Health Board's hospital advisory committee members any closer to solving the ultrasound waiting-list problem.
Key medical imaging staff were asked before the committee this week to provide answers on why the list has consistently been an issue.
In January more than 460 patients had an expected wait longer than five months - the highest it has been since April.
Specialist community and regional services operations director Nicholas Glubb said the ultrasound waiting list length was "a longstanding issue . . . but over time we've made improvements".
In the department there is one part-time sonographer who works 28 hours a week, and three fulltime students who require support.
Members asked what short-term solutions were viable and what could help lighten the load.
Medical imaging team leader Di Orange said there were no more backstops the department could rely on at the hospital to support the waiting list.
"That was one of the reasons we are now rostering two radiologists, that is what we are utilising instead of sonographers," she said. "Within the organisation [there are no more options]."
The department is managing waiting times by filling staff vacancies, weekend sessions, short-notice appointments and maximising machine use.
Medical Imaging medical head Adrian Lamballe said there were three good machines but it would be preferable to have four sonographers to reduce waiting times.
With one senior student, two junior students "who very much need to be checked" and the part-time sonographer, Medical Imaging was "extremely thin".
"We are able to put two radiologists into ultrasound on a rotational basis, one of whom can do their own exams, but this is an inefficient use of radiologists' time."
Mr Lamballe said the department also had problems ensuring GP referrals were going to the right place. Mr Glubb said discussions had been held with Broadway Radiology, the other main provider of medical imaging in the region, and it was agreed that working together on ultrasounds would benefit patients.
A working group would be set up to discuss options but there could be some cost to whatever joint effort was established, he said.