Saskatchewan

Sask. provincial auditor to examine MRI wait-list in upcoming report

The Sask. wait-list for an MRI doubled from 2015 to 2019.

Sask. wait-list for an MRI doubled from 2015 to 2019

The provincial auditor in Saskatchewan says the Sask. Health Authority should track data related to MRI wait times. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Saskatchewan's wait-list for MRIs doubled in four years.

Now, the provincial auditor says an upcoming report will look at whether the Saskatchewan Health Authority is properly tracking how the system is working.

More than 10,000 people were waiting for an MRI in 2019. There were about 5,000 in 2015.

The steady growth in the wait-list came despite the province introducing a system in 2016 under which patients can pay for their MRI at a private clinic and, in return, the private clinic has to provide a free MRI to someone on the public wait-list within 14 days.

In a 2017 report by the provincial auditor, the one-for-one system was flagged as not reducing wait times. Judy Ferguson was auditing the Regina Qu'Appelle Regional Authority.

"What we found at that particular time is that there are a number of errors that the authority needed to improve," Ferguson said. 

The 2017 report said the health authority should have had better information about key dates, rescheduled times and reasons, but that the authority was handling the emergency and urgent requests properly and was working with the medical community to understand why more MRIs were being ordered.  

Saskatchewan's Auditor Judy Ferguson says the province needs to track data surrounding MRI wait times. (CBC News)

Now, four years after the one-for-one system began, Ferguson said it most likely helped but that the clinics were handling it in a time-consuming way that didn't help those waiting. 

Ferguson said MRI wait times are one of the issues her office's June 2020 report will focus on. 

"We know the Saskatchewan Health Authority has also accepted the recommendations so we'll see how far they've gotten,"  she said.

The wait list for an MRI in Saskatchewan reached more than 10,000 people in 2019. (John Rieti/CBC)

In 2020, the health authority should focus on tracking information and the root causes of wait times, Ferguson said. 

This could include making sure physicians are using the MRI appropriately and not sending people to an MRI when they should not be, understanding intake to receive an MRI, making sure a request is received by the radiologist in a timely fashion, understanding patient outreach and communication, and tracking the reasons for each rescheduled appointment. 

"Those are things that are important," Ferguson said. "There's some things that do seem like they're working but if you're waiting for an MRI, you're still waiting." 

With files from Adam Hunter and The Morning Edition

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