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B.C. has reduced wait times for CTs, MRIs: report

Health Minister Adrian Dix speaks in Surrey to provide an update on medical imaging across B.C.
B.C’s Health Minister Adrian Dix, right, and Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee at a health care announcement at Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (Photo: Anna Burns)

More people in B.C. were able to access medical imaging in the past year, which resulted in "shorter wait times and dramatically more exams,"  said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Dix was in Surrey Thursday (June 7) to give an update about medical imaging in B.C. and spoke about the key findings from the medical imaging annual progress report.

In 2023/ 2024, the government put four actions into place to meet patient demands for medical imaging. This included building further capacity, increasing essential personnel, optimizing business processes and improving waitlist management and reporting. 

As more magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scanners were added to hospitals across the province, more medical imaging has been able to take place. According to the report, more than 994,000 CT exams were performed in 2023/2024, which is a 43 per cent increase over 2016/2017. 

In March 2024, MRI scanners operated for 4,960 hours per week, which was 283 hours more per week than March 2023. CT scanners operated for 6,693 hours in March 2024, which was 102 more hours per week than in March 203. 

Fraser Health extended MRI hours to service more people and has increased the number of CT scans by 100,000 yearly, Dix said. 

Wait times for MRIs have also decreased across the province, Dix said. B.C. used to have some of the longest wait times in the country for MRIs and is now in the 90th percentile.

"The Canadian Institute for Health Information annual report on how long Canadians waited for priority procedures, such as surgery and diagnostic imaging, in 2023 shows that B.C. has the second-shortest wait time in Canada: nine out of 10 people in B.C. waited 159 days or less for their MRI exam," reads a release from the Ministry of Health Thrusday (June 6).

There are two ways that these changes have been implemented, Dix said. "We significantly increase the hours that we keep our MRIs open, we purchase these, often hospital foundations fundraise for our MRIs, and we've been using them either 19/7 or 24/7, something that didn't happen before," Dix said.

There has also been a "health human resource plan" to support this effort, Dix said. The number of full-time equivalent MRI technologists has increased by 133 per cent since 2019.  

"We've added MRIs and CT scanners in every health authority, and we've ensured that service is better in the public health-care system, we've ensured that when the decision is made, who goes on a waitlist in this area, that that is based on their level of need, and not on their financial resources, it is a more efficient way to operate a public health-care system," Dix said. 

Since 2017, 18 net new MRI machines and nine CT scanners have been added across the province. 

"Work is underway this year to increase efficiencies by digitizing the requisition business processes using electronic tools. Once implemented, this will improve service delivery, creating a better, more efficient patient experience, and doing the same for the referring practitioner," reads the report.

MRI numbers tripled in Northern B.C.

Dix also spoke about the changes that have happened in Northern B.C. 

"We've tripled, tripled, the number of MRIs delivered in the North, from 6,331, back in 2016/17 to 20,647, this past year," Dix said. "That means people get access to surgery quicker, people get to find out what's wrong with them and how to deal with that quicker, they get better service in the public health-care system." 

White Rock resident Logan La Roue shared her story about how a timely MRI at Peace Arch Hospital saved her life.

"I knew something was very wrong when I began experiencing extreme pain and numbness in my back and legs. After some waiting, I was able to receive an MRI," La Rou said. "That first MRI revealed a spinal tumour that could have had devastating consequences if left it ignored, undiagnosed and untreated. I am eternally grateful for the imaging technology that played a crucial role in my diagnosis and recovery."

Dix said more work still needs to be done to continue to reduce the wait time for medical imaging scans. 

"When you're waiting for an MRI or a CT scan to say what's wrong with you, then that wait is a long wait," Dix said. 

There is still plenty of work to be done, Dix said.

"I'm not satisfied that wait times are anything like they need to be. They need to be shorter and shorter. It doesn't matter if you're leading the country to anyone waiting for an MRI, they want their exam as soon as possible," Dix said. 

The report outlined some work ahead in 2024/ 2025, including continuing to build further capacity and increasing essential personnel. 


Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I cover health care, non-profits and social issues-related topics for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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