Eleven patients were given MRIs immediately after eastern Newfoundland's largest health authority completed a review of wait lists for the diagnostic procedure.

Health Minister Susan Sullivan asked the health authority to look at its MRI wait times in January, when a Burin Peninsula woman's appointment was rescheduled after the cancer patient complained to CBC News that she was waiting too long for the test.

Eastern Health officials said the review of 330 cases of people on the wait list for an MRI did result in almost a dozen patients being fast-tracked.


Dr. Oscar Howell speaking in St. John's on Feb. 16. (CBC)

"We did in fact identify 11 patients that we felt really should be most urgently done," said Oscar Howell, the vice-president of medical services at Eastern Health.

"Six of those, we had already told the attending physicians that there were going to be delays. Five of those patients were new referrals that had only come in within a few days, and I'm happy to say that by Feb. 10 we had done all 11 patients." 

The health authority said it has now changed how it classifies patients waiting for MRIs so it is more responsive and has a better tracking system.

"Our outdated system wasn't meeting the needs. [This review] prompted us to change," said Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski Thusday.

The review was sparked by Sylvia Letournel's case. She told CBC News in January that she needed an MRI to help determine if the tumour in her bowel could be surgically removed. She was originally scheduled to receive an MRI in June but received a test in January after she spoke publicly about her case.


Eastern Health CEO Vicki Kaminski speaking at a news conference Feb. 16 to announce the findings of an internal review of MRI wait times. (CBC)

"We looked at that particular situation. When that case was reviewed it was confirmed that she required a MRI more urgently than she was scheduled to receive it," said Kaminski.

"The wait time for this patient was totally unacceptable and we needed to find out how she had fallen through the cracks and whether there were other patients in the same situation."

Kaminski said she didn't want the public to be left with the idea that Letournel received different care because she went to the media.

"We resolved the issue not because she went to the media but because she needed to have her MRI done sooner," she said.

"The fact that she used the media to let us know, that was her choice, but we would not have done it simply because she went to the media. She was moved because her condition necessitated that. Simply going to the media will not help people jump the queue."

Last month, Sullivan said she wanted answers from Eastern Health.

"We're looking at ... some measures that we may be able to put in place, and I've asked them to report back to me over the next couple of weeks," Sullivan said in mid-January.