Sunday, January 23, 2022

Radiologists warn of growing backlog in medical imaging due to COVID-19 pandemic


Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

Published on Wednesday, January 12th, 2022 5:43 AM EST

Radiologists are warning that Canadian hospitals are in dire need of more equipment and staff to deal with the medical imaging backlog the country was facing even before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

President of the Canadian Association of Radiologists, Dr. Gilles Soulez said the waiting time for medical imaging, which is crucial for diagnosis, was already more than the one month recommended when the pandemic began in March 2020. On average, Canadians waited by 50, he said. 82 days for CT scan and 89 days for MRI.

Now with COVID-19 threatening to overwhelm health care systems with the Omicron version, many of those appointments have either been delayed or cancelled, said Solez, who He is a radiologist at the Center Hospitalier Université de Montréal and a professor at the university. of Montreal.

“Medical imaging is really a cornerstone of any medical decision,” he said. “If you have any cancer-related problems, you need a CT scan to identify concerns and plan your treatment.”

He said that early detection of many diseases is also the key to a successful recovery and treatment.

“I would say that about 80 percent of patients who come to the hospital will need some kind of medical imaging.”

Solez said this is not only important for diagnosis, but imaging is also used to track a patient’s progress during treatment.

A recent survey by the Canadian Association of Radiologists indicated that 75 percent of its members did not reduce their backlog of medical imaging. Also, 30 percent said they believe wait times will never return to pre-pandemic levels.

Solez said more minimally invasive procedures are being performed, and they need to be guided by tools such as X-rays and CT scans.

“People have been waiting a long time to get those procedures,” he said. “They are important because they require minimal hospitalization and are less expensive.”

Dr. Ania Keeler, the association’s vice president and Toronto-based radiologist, said the Ontario government has already asked hospitals to reduce scanning volume by 30 percent due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

“By ramping up our outpatient imaging for radiology, this is now exacerbating an already difficult situation for us,” she said.

Keeler said all provinces need more equipment and more specialized staff to make the most of the technology.

“Right now, the equipment we have, which in itself is not enough, is being used for a very long time and, unfortunately, we don’t have enough people to run what we have, so it’s two-way problem,” she said.

During the last federal election campaign, liberals promised provinces $6 billion to help them do away with the wait for some processes.

But Keeler said Ottawa should specifically invest money in buying new equipment, training and hiring more technicians.

In a statement on Monday, Health Canada said the federal government is spending more than $19 billion to support the provinces and territories through its Safe Restart Agreement.

“The agreement includes $700 million to help ensure health care systems are prepared for potential future waves of the virus and to address the backlogs by certain provinces and territories and to provide care,” the statement said. Federal funding is being used to reduce the wait for

The federal agency did not say whether any money would be reserved for more medical imaging equipment and technicians.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Keeler said he expects the federal government to deliver on its promise as pressure builds on hospitals across the country.

“We can’t catch up with the amount of equipment and human health resources we have,” she said.

“But at the end of the day, it’s the patients who are suffering and that’s the hardest part for us.”

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