Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister says extra resources may need to be put towards lengthy wait times for potentially life-saving tests.


Health Minister Susan Sullivan says she directed Eastern Health to review its wait lists for MRI tests. (CBC)

Eastern Health has undertaken a review of its entire MRI wait lists in the wake of revelations that a Burin Peninsula woman had been mistakenly told she would need to wait for more than five months to determine whether her bowel cancer is operable.

Health Minister Susan Sullivan told CBC News the review was launched on her instructions.

"I have spoken, or directed Eastern Health, to take a look at that," Sullivan said in an interview.

Sullivan said the authority has a couple of weeks to produce a report, and that she is prepared to consider a variety of means to fix wait lists.

"If that means overtime, if that extra shifts — whatever that means, that those are issues that we need to look at to clear away the backlog that exists right now," Sullivan said.

Eastern Health says that average MRI wait times have ranged as high as about 260 days.

The issue was pushed to the fore this week through the case of Fortune resident Sylvia Letournel, who was scheduled Thursday to have an MRI scan that had originally been scheduled for June.

Letournel, who has a family history of bowel cancer, said she was pleased that her appointment was scheduled immediately, but wonders whether others are not as fortunate.

"Eastern Health should've done this long ago," Letournel said, describing the newly launched review.

"This is terrible, there's people like me at home dying on their feet because they need medical attention and they need MRIs. Something has to be done with Eastern Health."

In a statement Wednesday, Eastern Health said that it was "totally unacceptable" that Letournel was told she would need to wait until June to learn whether her cancer can be operated on.

Sullivan said she had questions about what motivated Eastern Health to act on the case of Letournel, who was interviewed by CBC's Here & Now earlier this week.

"If it's because of media that this has happened, then that's absolutely unacceptable and that's a conversation that I will be having," she said.

Meanwhile, Sullivan said other measures are being taken on wait times, and that government is preparing for a fifth MRI unit within the province, to be located at St. Clare's Hospital in St. John's.