May 29, 2024

Residents of Waterloo Region are facing harsh wait times for diagnostic imaging services such as MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds, leaving some residents fearful for their health.

“I’m worried that when I really need these services, I won’t be able to get them in time, and that scares me,” said Alex Jha, a student at Conestoga College.

According to a report published by the Fraser Institute in 2023, the average wait time for an ultrasound in Canada was 5.3 weeks. The average wait time for an MRI was 12.9 weeks, and for a CT scan, the average wait time was 6.6 weeks. According to hospital websites, the average wait time for these services in Waterloo Region is 200 days or 26 weeks.

For residents like Jha, these wait times can put their health at risk. Jha was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in his stomach; after waiting nearly seven hours in the Saint Mary’s emergency room, he was told he would need an ultrasound to confirm his diagnosis and rule out the need for surgery. Despite this, he was told he would have to wait nearly three months for an ultrasound.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Jha, “my health was seriously in danger, and they were going to make me wait.”

According to Nicole Bingeman, a Registered Nurse at Saint Mary’s Hospital, the issue stems from a shortage of staff and equipment.

“There’s just not enough people in the field; there’s a big shortage of ultrasound techs, CT techs, and MRI techs,” said Bingeman, “and even if we had more, we also don’t have the infrastructure for it.”

Earlier this month, Saint Mary’s Hospital welcomed its first MRI machine, bringing the total number of MRI machines in the region up to two. Despite this wait, times in the region have not changed, and neither has the number of technicians to run the machine.

 According to Bingeman, these specialized technicians’ employment in smaller clinics has more benefits compared to hospitals.  

“Pay is pretty comparable throughout, so why would they want to come work in a hospital where it might be functioning 24 hours a day, but they could work a nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday job somewhere else.”

The average salary for a diagnostic imaging technician in Ontario is $76,791 annually, nearly $30,000 higher than in provinces such as British Columbia and Manitoba.

Bingeman says that unless hospitals receive more funding, the chances of new equipment and competitive wages are low, which could lead the region to see even longer wait times in the future.

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