To give people faster access to the diagnoses and care they need, Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, has announced that 37,000 more magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams will be done throughout the province by the end of March 2019, compared to the previous year.
Under the B.C. Surgical and Diagnostic Strategy, 225,000 MRI exams will be completed in 2018-19, up from 188,000 in 2017-18. To meet these ambitious targets, $11 million is being made available in the public health-care system to add resources and capacity.
“This is a bold step to dramatically increase the number of MRI exams being done in B.C., and this coming year alone, the increase will be close to 20%,” said Dix. “We are delivering on our promise to restore services and find capacity in our public health-care system so that British Columbians don’t have to wait months and months for prescribed exams. We know that by rebuilding and expanding capacity in the public system, we will improve access to care and patient outcomes.”
Overall wait times for scheduled MRI exams in British Columbia are long, with 50% of patients waiting more than 41 days, and 10% of patients waiting more than 199 days. At the end of 2016-17, B.C.’s per capita rate for MRI exams was 37 per 1,000 population, far below the national average of 55.5.
“Wait times are simply too long in B.C., in part due to volumes that are 35% to 40% less than other provinces,” said Dix. “Increasing MRI exams by 37,000 exams in B.C. this year, with further increases planned for 2019-20, will reduce the uncertainty and pain caused by long waits. Our plan is to maximize resources and employ best practices in the public system to reduce wait times and improve care.”
Reaching MRI targets will be achieved by:
- operating existing machines longer to accommodate additional exams;
- establishing centralized intake at a regional level that will reduce duplicate referrals and appointments, and prevent wasted operating time, while also offering patients the earliest appointment available in a region, as appropriate;
- installing already-planned MRI machines; and
- adding additional capacity to the public system.
In addition to increasing capacity, the Ministry of Health is working with health authorities to find ways to make sure referrals for MRI are the most appropriate diagnostic choice, and that the quality of exams are consistently high to ensure patient safety, and reduce the need to repeat the exams and take up more valuable time.
MRI is one of the tools used to diagnose a number of medical conditions, including abnormalities of the brain, as well as tumours, cysts and soft-tissue injuries in other parts of the body. An early diagnosis can lead to early treatment, which can positively affect people’s quality of life and return them to being contributing members of their communities and the economy.
In addition to adding MRI capacity, on March 21, 2018, Premier John Horgan announced the Province’s surgical strategy to complete approximately 9,400 more surgeries within the public health-care system by the end of March 2019.
The strategy will improve timely access to surgery through a more-efficient surgical system, and help the province catch up and keep up with demand, starting with hip and knee replacement surgery and dental surgery. It will also improve patients’ experiences by focusing on improving surgical pathways, co-ordination of care and information provided to patients.
A backgrounder follows.