Lack of technicians extends ultrasound wait at Winnipeg hospital

Several ultrasound technicians at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg have taken leave at the same time, extending wait times for elective procedures by more than a month.

If you need an ultrasound test, you might want to ask your doctor to send you to a hospital other than St. Boniface, where a shortage of ultrasound technologists has extended waiting lists by more than a month.

Several ultrasound technicians at the east Winnipeg hospital took leave simultaneously for a variety of reasons, leaving the facility short-handed.

"It's a unique situation, having a number of people off at the same time," said Heidi Graham, spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

"We do get the times when for whatever reason, you know, we get bumps or peaks, surges and demands at different sites, because of issues like this or simply because people have gone to other positions."

The current wait for an elective ultrasound at St. Boniface is about 17 weeks, Graham said. The typical waiting time for the test is about 11 to 12 weeks, she said.

"Those are only for what we call scheduled cases, elective cases. Anyone who has an [emergency] or an urgent case gets done almost immediately — emergency within 24 hours, urgent cases within 48, sometimes a little longer than that," she said.

"[For] women who are pregnant, because the ultrasound has to be done between the 18th and 22nd week of gestation, those are scheduled and not included."

Steps are being taken to address the problem, Graham said.

"We do have a class of 10 technologists who are graduating from the Health Sciences Centre this August, and we're hoping with that, plus people coming back from their leave, will help reduce [the wait]," she said.

"As well, our central diagnostic imaging program [is] trying to redirect some of the requisitions from St. Boniface to some of the other hospitals to try to smooth out the wait times across the regions."

In the meantime, Graham recommended patients who require an elective ultrasound test ask their doctor to send them to another facility if they don't want to face the extra wait.