Canadian radiologists push federal lawmakers to deal with ‘devastating impact’ of long waits for medical imaging

Radiologists from across Canada descended on Parliament Hill in Ottawa earlier this month to voice pressing concerns on behalf of medical-imaging patients and professionals.

Their chief worry: The pandemic lengthened wait times for advanced imaging that were already 20 to 50 days longer than the acceptable 30 days before COVID arrived.

In fact, prior to late 2020, Canadians waited an average 50 to 82 days for CT and 89 days for MRI.

Recently more than half of residents surveyed said their wait times have only gotten worse over the past three years.

The Canadian Association of Radiologists, or CAR, outlines the problem and describes the Ottawa lobbying effort in a news release sent Nov. 21.

Now CAR leadership is urging those with whom CAR members met—members of Parliament, senators and other government officials—to take several specific steps. These include:   

  1. Invest $1 billion over three years for medical imaging equipment to be distributed to the provinces on a per capita basis.
  2. Implement a health HR strategy—one that includes hiring more radiologic technologists.
  3. Collaborate with physicians to build a national clinical decision support (CDS) system that will equip imaging referrers with better access to medical imaging guidelines, ensuring that patients receive the right imaging test at the right time.
  4. Harness homegrown AI applications for the strategic prioritization of health human resources, technology and infrastructure for medical imaging across Canada.

The CAR says the November meetings on Parliament Hill focused on “the devastating impact of excessively long wait times for medical imaging, especially as we continue to deal with disruptions from COVID-19.”

CAR president Gilles Soulez, MD, an interventionalist with the University of Montreal, adds: “What we heard during our meetings was clear—Canadians deserve better. Investments are needed.”

Soulez also notes high levels of burnout among radiologists and technologists. “[W]ith no solution in sight, this situation will only get worse,” he says.

CAR vice president Ania Kielar, MD, emphasizes that Canadians who postponed diagnostic and necessary follow-up imaging early in the pandemic are now in more urgent need of care.

“The influx and additional requirements for those undiagnosed or with worsening conditions are compounding an already dangerous situation,” she says. “Simply put: if we do not take action now to resolve critical resource shortages, the demand for imaging will significantly impact our healthcare system.”

News release here, additional coverage here.

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