Contracting out of MRIs to shorten lists a case of bad planning says health union

The decision by the Fraser Health Authority to send patients to private MRI clinics shows that the BC government has failed to plan for long-term health care needs, says Cindy Stewart, President of the Health Sciences Association of BC.

While Stewart acknowledges the health authority is trying to resolve an immediate problem, she says that a long-term strategy is required to avoid similar back-logs in the future.

"This problem did not arise overnight," Stewart says. "Management in the Fraser Health Authority have been aware of this problem for years, as wait lists have become more and more unmanageable."

Stewart points out that a recent survey by the BC Medical Association found that in the Fraser Health Authority, patients are waiting up to 14 days for urgent cases rather than the recommended 3 days. In elective cases, the wait is as much as 240 days rather than the recommended 21 days.

"There is ample evidence to show that quick fixes like this one cost the health care system more in the long run," Stewart says. "That's simply unacceptable when long-term planning could have avoided the problem in the first place."

Stewart points to the experience in Ontario when the government's decision to outsource diagnostic testing to private companies was a complete failure. To meet the demand, trained technologists were poached out of the public system exacerbating the serious shortage of trained professionals in the public system. The Ontario government is now in the process of buying back a number of private clinics.

"I am surprised that the BC government has not learned anything from the Ontario experiment," Stewart says. "If this government is serious about reducing wait lists, they need to engage in long term planning to ensure the technology is available and they have an adequate supply of trained technologists available to run the equipment."

The Health Sciences Association is a union that represents 12,000 health science professionals who deliver diagnostic, clinical and rehabilitation health services in BC.


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