Wait-time alarm over scan patients

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 04/10/2012

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A high number of referrals to MRI and CT imaging at Dunedin Hospital has led to patients being sent to Invercargill for scans.

Yesterday, the Southern DHB hospital advisory committee was told wait times at Dunedin Hospital were over target and patients were being given the option of being outsourced to Invercargill instead.

Previously this option had been offered only to Balclutha and Central Otago patients.

A summary of wait times given to the committee shows patients were waiting up to 28 weeks for an MRI, against the 16-week target; wait times for CT scans were reported as "significantly over target" at 20 weeks against the 12-week target. Ultrasound and musculoskeletal imaging was also over target at between 22 to 26 weeks.

By contrast, imaging services at Southland and District Lakes hospitals met five out of six targets. Nuclear medicine imaging was four weeks over target.

A district review of radiological services has been approved, and equipment availability, private services and staffing would be considered, the report says.

Committee member Richard Thomson asked if wait times for the MRI at Dunedin were driven by lack of staff.

Executive director of patient services Lexie O' Shea said it was an increase in referrals.

Committee member Kaye Crowther said wait times were also a concern for primary care. The Southern PHO had also put funding towards diagnostic services because GPs couldn't get patients referred, she said.

Committee chairman Paul Menzies said he understood the PHO was doing this to take pressure off the hospital arm.

While some members debated the use of scans - including research on radiation exposure, and the danger of doctors relying too much on scans to diagnose a patient - Mr Thomson said he didn't want that debate to erase questions around radiology services possibly being resource-strapped.

Committee member Branko Sijnja asked about the $100,000 initially put into the review of radiology services last year.

Ms O' Shea said this review was ongoing, partly because the initial recruitment attempt for a programme manager of radiology services had been unsuccessful.

The report says the position will be held over for redeployment options.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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