Nova Scotia

N.S. clinics work to clear backlog of routine mammograms caused by COVID-19 closures

Routine mammograms are being booked across the province again after clinics were closed for two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s a backlog of thousands of cancelled appointments that needs to be cleared before any new bookings can be made.

'We’re making headway slowly but surely,' says clinic supervisor Denise Wright

Denise Wright, the supervisor for the Dartmouth, Halifax and Cobequid breast screening clinics, said the backlog of cancelled routine mammogram appointments needs to be cleared before they can take on new bookings. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Routine mammograms are being booked across Nova Scotia again after clinics were closed for two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there's still a backlog of cancelled appointments that needs to be cleared before any new bookings can be made.

Emergency mammograms continued at hospitals throughout the pandemic. But with clinics closed, 12,000 routine appointments and 6,000 diagnostic appointments for higher-risk patients were missed out on.

Denise Wright, the supervisor of the Halifax, Dartmouth, and Cobequid clinics, said from March 14-28, there were 519 cancelled appointments at the Halifax clinic alone.

Since the clinics opened again for routine appointments three weeks ago, Wright said they've already rebooked more than 200 of those appointments.

"We want to get some of our cancelled screens, some of the backlog, settled down a bit first and see how much we can get done before the second wave [of the coronavirus] hits," she said.

Although the clinics are getting busier, Wright said they're still not where they were before the pandemic.

"But it means we're making headway slowly but surely," she said. "And that's good."

Fewer no-show appointments

Typically, women miss about five per cent of their appointments. That number doubled in May when clinics reopened to high-risk patients, as many were hesitant to go to appointments in the midst of the pandemic.

But Wright said at the clinics she supervises, the number of no-shows is now back to where it was before the pandemic.

She said she thinks the mandatory mask rule in the province is partially to thank for that. Masks have also been mandatory in all Nova Scotia hospitals and health-care centres since July 21.

"It's normal now to wear a mask. I think people are feeling more comfortable being close in a mammogram when everybody's wearing a mask," Wright said.

If anyone does need to cancel their appointment, Wright said to call the clinic to let them know.

"Rebooking is not an issue, even the day of, so we'll be able to fill the spots," she said.

With files from Carolyn Ray

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