Waiting times for scans increase, as anticipated

Waiting times for scans through the Southern District Health Board have risen dramatically due to Covid-19.

Outpatients now waiting for CT, MRI and ultrasound scans can expect to wait about 20 days more than they would have in February, figures released by the SDHB show.

The delay for X-rays is even greater. Before Covid-19 patients would wait no more than two weeks for a scan, but now the expected maximum wait is 42 days.

Health authorities knew it was inevitable waiting times would increase substantially after many services were forced to close during Alert Levels 4 and 3.

‘‘We are working to address this in a safe way during Level 2, with those most in need receiving priority and we are planning measures to address the backlog in each area, where possible,’’ specialist services executive director Patrick Ng said.

‘‘Acute patients referred by the emergency department and almost all other acute patients are examined on the day of referral.’’

Dunedin Hospital’s MRI scanning programme has resumed seven-day service and next week CT scanning will also be receiving its usual number of patients, Mr Ng said.

Ultrasound scans were still an issue, but new recruitment and the training of two new sonographers at Dunedin Hospital would assist, he said.

The median wait time for ultrasound in February was 52 days, but by the end of April that had increased to 76.

For MRI scans the media wait has increased from 46 to 64 days, while for CT scans a 34-day median wait had extended to 50.

‘‘Our immediate focus in CT is on trying to improve the situation for urgent Outpatients,’’ Mr Ng said.

‘‘Immediate options include using external CT scanning with private providers and offering patients the option for scans to be completed elsewhere in our district.’’

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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