Issue needs front-of-the-line treatment


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/04/2017 (1986 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Nobody likes being in them, whether it’s the literal lengthy wait for a beer and a hot dog at a Winnipeg Jets game or the figurative queue created by the waiting list for an MRI exam. The only thing more irritating than being in line is the notion someone may have cut in front and received quicker access to a beer, a brat or a scan.

The average wait for an MRI in Manitoba currently stands at 23 weeks and continues to increase.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Manitoba auditor general Norman Ricard

The reasons for the long waits are many, and may include the possibility some people in the province get preferential access.

That concern was recently raised by auditor general Norman Ricard, who believes the current system is not doing a good enough job at managing access.

Mr. Ricard issued a report two weeks ago that addresses the issue of MRI wait times and includes the observation the current system may have allowed some people — professional athletes and influential individuals — to receive preferential treatment in the scheduling of tests.

The confidential 43-page report obtained by the Free Press flags 92 cases over an eight-year span which may have involved “potential preferential treatment.”

Mr. Ricard later said he found no evidence any of the individuals named had sought or knowingly received preferential treatment, and it was more likely their cases involved administrative failings rather than any attempt to abuse the system.

In the aftermath of the report being made public, the issue of MRI access has become the subject of heated public discussion. Of particular note are the revelations professional athletes — specifically Jets and Winnipeg Blue Bombers players — routinely receive quick access to MRI exams, and that under a special paid-access agreement, Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba claimants are guaranteed much quicker access to MRI scans than non-claimants.

The auditor general suggested the real culprit in the MRI inequality situation is the lack of strong, consistent oversight.

What’s needed, he concluded, is an overhaul of the MRI management system — a system that has remained largely unchanged as wait times nearly doubled in the last five years, despite a massive increase in the number of scans performed. In Winnipeg alone last year, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority performed 20,000 more MRI exams than it did just eight years earlier.

Mr. Ricard also raised another, perhaps much more pressing issue in his report: the inability of the system to police physicians who order unnecessary MRI scans.

Coincidentally, this week the provincial government’s health-wait-time-reduction task force was preparing to listen to Manitobans speak their minds on the chronic delays that seem to prevent many from obtaining timely access to a health service.

But it wouldn’t be surprising if some of those folks frustrated by the status quo simply say there’s been enough talk, and the task force will simply create a different kind of wait time — one that continues to leave the problem of long lineups for MRI exams at a standstill.

This might be one of those moments when Manitobans, sick and tired of waiting in one line or another, might even not object if the government let the MRI issue jump the queue and move a bit closer to the top of the priority list.

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