Report on imaging services highlights lengthy waits

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013

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Patients are waiting up to 40 weeks for a CT scan against a 12-week target, a hospital committee heard yesterday in Dunedin.

Imaging services at both Southland and Dunedin hospitals were questioned by committee members yesterday, who pressed management for answers as to how long it would take before a new programme to reduce wait times was effective.

The "Better Working Radiology" programme was established by the Southern District Health Board following the 2011 combined wait time report of Southland and Dunedin hospital's imaging service. The report highlighted long wait times for patients, especially for routine MRI and CT scans at Dunedin Hospital.

The programme - which includes a new SPECT/CT scanner being installed in Invercargill, and CT scanning of Oamaru patients at Waitaki - was implemented as a result of the report.

Yesterday, committee members were presented with the latest report from January, which shows a routine MRI scan at Dunedin Hospital has a wait time of 35 weeks against a 16-week target and a CT scan has a wait time of 40 weeks against a 12-week target.

Southland Hospital was within wait time targets for most diagnostic services, except for fluoroscopy, which was four weeks against a two-week target and nuclear medicine, which was 14 weeks against an eight-week target.

Committee member Richard Thomson said after doing the sums and looking at the waiting times he was not confident the wait times would be reduced any time soon without additional resources.

This was not a reflection of diagnostic staff, who he said were working hard to keep up with demand.

Imaging wait times "stuck out" as an issue the health board had been dealing with.

He suggested more regular updates on how backlogs were being dealt with.

The report presented to the committee says there is a greater demand for hi-tech imaging created by expanded services - such as neurology - and new expectations for cancer patients as well as increasing demand for scans that take longer to perform.

Patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea said there were capacity issues but it was unclear if this was with staff or equipment.

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- The Southland Times

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