Caught up on missed mammograms, P.E.I. diagnostic imaging now grappling with no-shows

·2 min read

P.E.I.'s director of diagnostic imaging says it took several months to catch up on mammograms missed during the COVID-19 shutdown, which left some people waiting much longer than usual to get screened.

Back in March, with non-essential services cancelled, breast cancer screening via mammogram was put on hold. But people with existing conditions or physical symptoms such as a lump could still be seen.

At the end of May, mammogram screening resumed. Gailyne MacPherson, director of hospital services at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and provincial director of diagnostic imaging, says extra staff were brought on and extra shifts added to help catch up — but it still took several months to get through the waiting list.

"The people who waited the longest, obviously, were the first that were cancelled," said MacPherson. "So those were the people who'd booked the middle of March. And then other people waited less and less, until we got caught up."

'No shows' on the rise

MacPherson said now that they're caught up on the backlog, the main issue is the growing numbers of patients not showing up for their appointments.

She says it's discouraging, because before the pandemic, progress had been made on an initiative to reduce no-shows.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

"We started off our initiative and we had 225 no-shows per month," said MacPherson. "And we had gotten it down to — I think it was last November, December — we had gotten it to under 100, and now we're up to 170-175."

She said, on average, 40-45 mammograms are conducted per day at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, and about 30 at Prince County Hospital in Summerside.

If you don't want to use your appointment, please, please, please cancel it. - Gailyne MacPherson, Provincial Director of Diagnostic Services

MacPherson believes part of the reason for the missed appointments could be that people are afraid to come to the hospital, due to COVID-19.

She's reminding Islanders that it is safe — and that every possible precaution is taken to clean and sanitize equipment, door knobs and waiting areas.

'We are providing safe care'

"We are providing safe care here," said MacPherson.

"We have done lots of work [with] infection control and have lots of infrastructure put in place to ensure that people are as safe as we can possibly keep them. And we believe that if you need care, you should come to receive care."

She asked that anyone who isn't able to attend their appointment call ahead and cancel it.

"If you don't want to use your appointment, please, please, please cancel it," said MacPherson, who said the department will soon start reaching out to patients for feedback on why they aren't attending appointments.

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