Staff at an Edmonton medical clinic are concerned about extra long wait times for urgent CT scans. They say patients are waiting two to three months when they should wait no longer than two weeks.
Dr. Farah Zaidi, Rosemary Baker and colleagues at the Grandview Heights Medical Clinic say the wait times for computerized tomography (CT) in the Edmonton area are putting patients at risk.
They came forward after seeing a previous Global News story on the issue.
“We are talking about patients who have had abnormal clinical findings, abnormal ultrasound scan results, abnormal x-rays, who need urgent investigations,” said Zaidi, a family physician.
“(Wait times are) a huge concern because you need to have that CT in order to be able to properly diagnose certain kinds of cancers,” said Baker, a medical office manager and referral coordinator.
Baker explains patients can’t be referred to a surgeon or to the Cross Cancer Institute for treatment until they have their CT scan results for diagnosis. CT is also used to see if a cancer has spread in the body before treatment.
In an email to Global News, the Alberta health minister’s press secretary, Steve Buick, wrote:
“In September (2019), 90 per cent of urgent CT scans in Edmonton were done within six weeks, compared to a provincial average of four weeks.”
READ MORE: Winners and losers in Alberta budget 2019
The latest budget shows the province plans to spend $38 million less this year on diagnostic, therapeutic and other patient services (which includes medical imaging). Spending on that category in 2018-2019 was $2.378 billion. The 2019-2020 budget is $2.340 billion.
According to Buick, “that (spending) does not reflect any cut in volume; it reflects reduced costs, including a reduction in required pension contribution rates (for staff), and lower prices for contracted services.”
“(Alberta Health) and AHS are monitoring this issue closely and we are assured patients will not be put at risk.”
Baker, Zaidi and Friends of Medicare expressed concern about frustrated patients choosing to pay hundreds of dollars for private CT scans.
“If I can pay for (a private scan), it pushes me to the front of the line,” said Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare.
“What we have seen is a creation of inequality in terms of access to those services and that’s not what our health care system is about.”