British Columbia

MRI wait times in B.C. double the national average: Fraser Institute survey

British Columbians can expect to wait 24 weeks for an MRI, according to a survey from the Fraser Institute. Critics, however, are calling the institute's data into question.

But critics, Health Ministry, call survey methodology and data into question

According to a new survey from the Fraser Institute, British Columbians can expect to wait 24 weeks for an MRI. (Laura Meader/CBC)

A survey of Canadian physicians conducted by the Fraser Institute says MRI wait times in B.C. are more than double the national average— but critics are calling the report's methodology into question.

The survey suggests British Columbians wait 24 weeks when in need of an MRI, compared to the national average of 11.1 weeks. The data was collected by surveying physicians across 12 specialties between January and April of this year.

The survey also says the median wait time in the province from specialist to treatment is over 25 weeks.

But the province's Ministry of Health was quick to criticize the findings.

"It is important to remember the results of the Fraser Institute survey are based on opinion, not science. Reasonable wait times must be based on clinical data, not on personal opinion," said the ministry in a statement.

"We also note that there was a low response rate to this survey — only 442 of the 5799 specialists in B.C. — that's 7.6 per cent of all specialists responded to this survey."

Getting moved up the list

Dr. Michael Klein, professor emeritus for family medicine and pediatrics at UBC, also questions the methodology of the findings.

"It is certainly not reliable," he told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's BC Almanac.

Still, Klein admits that long lines are a huge problem.

"There's absolutely no question that we need to shorten wait times for these laboratory tests," he said.

"We know they're long, we know they're longer than they should be, and we know that there's various people who can afford to jump the line on that by paying extra money for it."

He says, however, that the problem isn't as large as the Fraser Institute suggests, and that specialists can move patients further up the list depending on the urgency of their condition.

"The individual physician, surgeon or specialist has control over his or her waiting list — nothing is static and nothing remains the same, so it's their responsibility to evaluate and re-evaluate because the clinical situation is changing, and they can move patients higher on the list if they feel it's necessary."

"Ideally there is a discussion going on between the specialist and the general practitioner so that the patients who really need the service get moved to the top of the list."

B.C.'s Ministry of Health indexes wait times for surgeries by both health authority and procedure.

With files from CBC's BC Almanac

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: MRI wait times in B.C. double the national average, according to survey