British Columbia performs more MRIs than expected, but still doesn’t have wait-time data

Click to play video: 'B.C. government says more MRIs being performed'
B.C. government says more MRIs being performed
WATCH: The Ministry of Health says MRI tests have increased in the year since they committed to shortening wait times across the province – May 2, 2019

The B.C. government has done more MRIs this year than expected, but still doesn’t have figures on how long patients are waiting for them.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced on Thursday that in the first year of a concerted effort to increase MRIs, 233,369 tests were conducted. That’s compared to 2017-18 when 189,376 exams were performed.

“It is an extraordinary achievement for the public health-care system, to do this in one year — to be among the worst provinces to move significantly up compared to other provinces,” Dix said.

WATCH (aired September 24, 2018): B.C. government buys private MRI clinics

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B.C. government buys private MRI clinics

“We knew we could do better in the public health system.”

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Dix says before he focused in on the MRI issue there was one machine running in the province 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The province says there are now 10.

The province is soon gathering wait-time numbers and will present them publicly when they are collected. Even though the numbers aren’t ready yet, Dix is confident wait times have gone down.

“Wait times are down in health authorities across the province, most dramatically in Northern Health,” Dix said.

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“We are going to see wait-time numbers come down significantly.”

For the current year, the province has put in an extra $5.25 million in order to complete 248,369 exams annually. Under the strategy launched last year, the government invested $11 million of ongoing funding to substantially increase the number of exams.

“Our government has been very clear that the commitment announced last March to improve access to MRIs was not a one-time effort, but part of a multi-year strategy to reduce waits and leverage solutions and capacity in the public health-care system,” Dix said.

“We have seen some great results in just the first year, which we will continue to build off in Year 2, so more and more patients can receive faster and more appropriate care. Simply put, we are just getting started.”

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According to the province, since October 2018, Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and Providence Health Care have processed MRI requests through a central intake system. The change has allowed the province to reduce missed appointments.

The Ministry of Health and the health authorities are working together to find ways to make sure referrals for MRIs are the most appropriate test.

MRI is one of the tools used to diagnose a number of medical conditions, including abnormalities of the brain, as well as tumours, cysts and soft-tissue injuries in other parts of the body.

“Being able to get an MRI within two weeks helped me physically and mentally. It gave me the peace of mind, not having to wait and worry,” MRI recipient Kyra Janot said.

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