No-shows for some hospital appointments creep up during pandemic

·2 min read
'I think there are people who are afraid. There's some anxiety around, is this a safe place to come, with COVID around us?' says P.E.I. director of diagnostic imaging Gailyne McPherson.  (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC  - image credit)
'I think there are people who are afraid. There's some anxiety around, is this a safe place to come, with COVID around us?' says P.E.I. director of diagnostic imaging Gailyne McPherson. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC - image credit)

The number of no-shows at P.E.I. hospitals for diagnostic imaging appointments is once again on the rise, health officials say.

P.E.I.'s Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling issued a plea Thursday for people to show up to their appointments, assuring the public hospitals are doing everything they can to protect patients from COVID-19.

"I think that there's some fear — we have noticed it's gone up since COVID arrived," said provincial director of diagnostic imaging Gailyne MacPherson.

However she said there is no need to worry.

"It is a safe place to come, we have all the precautions in place, we have all the proper PPE," MacPherson said.

When the system began tracking no-shows a few years ago, MacPherson said Islanders were missing 250 appointments a month for X-rays, ultrasounds, mammography, bone density and other exams.

Most recently with the admission to hospital we have had — that there's some anxiety around that. — Gailyne MacPherson

Last January, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the province was pleased that there had been fewer than 100 missed appointments monthly provincewide.

In March of this year, no-shows crept up again to 196 — however, 65 of those appointments were for general X-rays, which were walk-in rather than scheduled appointments before the pandemic. Comparing apples to apples, there were therefore about 130 missed appointments, which is still unacceptable, MacPherson said.

She said they can see public anxiety through appointment no-shows.

"We see peaks and valleys depending on how many positive cases there are on P.E.I., and most recently with the admission to hospital we have had — that there's some anxiety around that," MacPherson said.

X-ray, mammography most frequent no-shows

Two procedures that are currently most frequently missed are general X-ray appointments and mammography screening, she said.

'Every missed appointment is a missed opportunity for someone else to get in,' says MacPherson, urging people who can't make it to their appointments to call and cancel.
'Every missed appointment is a missed opportunity for someone else to get in,' says MacPherson, urging people who can't make it to their appointments to call and cancel.(CBC)

People scheduled for breast screening but are not "urgently ill" are the most frequent no-shows, MacPherson said.

She said they believe some people are mistakenly booking X-ray appointments on their own, while also having an appointment through their doctor's office.

Patients do receive reminder phone calls for some tests, or texts for others such as mammography.

MacPherson urges Islanders who can't make it to their appointments to call and cancel.

"Every missed appointment is a missed opportunity for someone else to get in," she said.

More from CBC P.E.I.