A sign of the future
Health authority plans to do 4,400 fewer scans to ease cash shortfall
By Lindsay Kines and Richard Watts
The Victoria Times Colonist
September 4, 2009
MRI scans that are used to detect tumours, fractures and other ailments will be cut by 20 per cent this year, the Vancouver Island Health Authority has confirmed.
The health authority plans to do 4,400 fewer of the magnetic resonance imaging scans to help cover a $45-million budget shortfall, figures released yesterday show.
The cuts likely mean patients will wait in pain even longer for treatment and surgery -- and already they are waiting twice as long as last year.
VIHA spokeswoman Shannon Marshall said patients are being booked for March, six months away, for elective MRI scans. Last year, wait times for MRI scans were only three months.
Marshall said emergency scans will be performed immediately.
Howard Waldner, VIHA's chief executive officer, had previously said that the authority would return to 2008-2009 budgeted levels for MRIs as a cost-saving measure as it wrestles with a projected deficit of about $45 million on its total $1.7-billion budget.
Last year, medical imaging in VIHA went 9.2 per cent over budget, to $21.2 million instead of the planned $19.4 million. The figures released yesterday showed 18,100 MRI scans were budgeted for last year, but 22,567 were performed.
If the health authority returns to budgeted levels, that's a drop of more than 4,400 MRIs.
Critics say the move to reduce the number of scans contradicts the Liberal government's election promises. "In spite of the fact that the government campaigned on more MRIs, they weren't telling the truth. They're having to cut MRIs and having to cut MRIs by 20 per cent," said NDP health care critic Adrian Dix.
"It really is an indication of their plans for health care here on Vancouver Island."
Health Minister Kevin Falcon conceded wait times for non-emergency procedures will be going up as health authorities scale back to meet their budgets. . . .
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