Radiologists warns that Canadian hospitals are in dire need of more equipment and staff to deal with the backlog of medical imaging that the country has already faced before Covid-19 pandemic began.
Dr. Gilles Soulez, president of the Canadian Association of Radiologists, said waiting times for medical imaging critical for diagnoses were already more than the recommended month when the pandemic began in March 2020. On average, Canadians waited 50, he said. to 82 days for a CT scan and 89 days for an MRI.
Now that the COVID-19 Omicron variant is threatening to overwhelm healthcare systems again, many more of those appointments are being either delayed or canceled, said Soulez, who is also a radiologist at the Center Hospitalier Universite de Montreal and a professor at the University of Montreal.
“Medical imaging is really the cornerstone of any medical decision,” he said. “If you have cancer-related problems, you should have a CT scan to identify the concern and plan your treatment.”
Early detection of many diseases is also the key to successful recovery and cure, he said.
“I would say that almost 80 percent of the patients who come into the hospital will need some form of medical imaging.”
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Soulez added that not only is it important for diagnosis, imaging is also used to track a patient’s progress during treatment.
A recent study by the Canadian Association of Radiologists found that 75 percent of its members had not reduced their backlog of medical imaging. In addition, 30 percent said they believe waiting times will never return to pre-pandemic levels.
Soulez said more minimally invasive procedures are being performed and that they should be guided by equipment such as x-rays and CT scans.
“People are waiting a long time to get these procedures,” he said. “They are important because they require minimal hospitalization and are cheaper.”
Dr. Ania Kielar, the association’s vice president and a Toronto-based radiologist, said the Ontario government has already asked hospitals to reduce the amount of scans by 30 percent due to escalating COVID-19 cases.
“By having to turn down our outpatient imaging for radiology, this is now exacerbating what was already a difficult situation for us,” she said.
Kielar said all provinces need more equipment and more specialized personnel to use the technology to its maximum potential.
“Right now, the equipment we have, which in itself is not enough, is being used much longer, and unfortunately we just do not have enough people to run what we have, so it is a two-sided problem.” she said.
During the last federal election campaign, the Liberals pledged $ 6 billion to the provinces to help resolve the wait for some procedures.
But Kielar said Ottawa should earmark money specifically for the purchase of new equipment, training and hiring more technicians.
In a statement Monday, Health Canada said the federal government is spending more than $ 19 billion on supporting provinces and territories through its secure restart agreement.
“The agreement includes $ 700 million to help ensure health systems are ready for possible future waves of the virus, and federal funding is being used by some provinces and territories to address backlogs and reduce waiting times for care,” the statement said.
The federal agency did not say whether 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.
Kielar said she hopes the federal government keeps its promise because hospitals across the country will continue to be under pressure.
“We can not keep up with the amount of equipment and the human health resources we have,” she said.
“But in the end, it’s the patients who suffer, and that’s the hardest part for us.”
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