Carol Bryan holds letters she has received from Southern
District Health Board responding to her concerns about
waiting times. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A Dunedin woman waiting for an MRI scan deemed routine by
Dunedin Hospital believes some patients are classified as low
priority to make the waiting list look better.
Carol Bryan (59), who lives in Outram, said Dunedin Hospital
needed a second MRI machine, as the hospital's single scanner
was not keeping up.
She did not think her case should be ranked low priority, and
said other patients were wrongly classified, too. She said
many of those affected by the long waiting times at the
radiology department were too frightened to complain. She
urged people to write to the Southern District Health Board,
and their MP, to ask why Dunedin had only one public MRI
The Otago Daily Times reported last week patients were
waiting 35 weeks for routine MRI, 40 weeks for routine CT,
and 26 weeks for routine ultrasound scans. There were also
unscheduled waiting lists for MRI and CT scans.
Mrs Bryan, who has complained to the board and the Health and
Disability Commissioner, said the reported waiting times did
not reveal the extent of the problem.
Southland Hospital's radiology service is being used to
relieve the situation, but Mrs Bryan understood that hospital
was now being pressured by Dunedin referrals.
She was referred for an MRI in mid-November, and would not be
scanned until February 20, despite accepting the Southland
option to avoid waiting. She was also concerned about fuel
costs being shouldered by patients. The situation had caused
confusion, as she initially understood her costs would be
met, but was then advised that was not the case.
Travelling to Invercargill also meant taking a day's annual
Mrs Bryan had a large tumour removed from the base of her
spine in 2010, and afterwards spent eight months on crutches.
About a year ago, she started to feel unwell, and was
referred to the ear, nose, and throat department for
investigation. It took about four months to secure a
Women's, children's and public health general manager Elaine
Chisnall, in an email, apologised for ''any confusion'' over
travel costs, which had to be met by patients.
Patients were given priority rankings using a clinical
assessment, and those decisions were made irrespective of
waiting lists, Ms Chisnall said.
''We recognise that waiting times for MRIs at Dunedin
Hospital are too long and are working to reduce these through
a number of ways, including using Southland Hospital when
Health board chief executive Carole Heatly wrote to Mrs Bryan
in December, and said buying a second machine cost too much,
both to buy and operate.
''Whilst it would be very nice to purchase a second scanner,
the reality is that it is very expensive (around $3 million)
''It is an enormous investment of taxpayer dollars.
''Therefore, we need to ensure we are utilising all options
in the district,'' the letter said.
The board has cracked down on medical outsourcing because of
overspending on outsourced procedures in 2011-12.
Otago Radiology general manager Paul Morrison said the
private provider had noticed a ''significant decrease'' since
last July in board-funded MRI and CT scans.
''We have significant capacity available, particularly in CT,
and are more than happy to provide assistance when asked,''
Mr Morrison said.
At the hospital advisory committee last week, patient
services director Lexie O'Shea said further work was needed
to understand the causes of the long waits in Dunedin.