A longtime South Delta family doctor says he's frustrated at having to wait an inordinate amount of time when it comes to tests at Delta Hospital.
Saying he's had enough of lengthy delays and not being able to get an answer at the hospital, Dr. Ken Lai recently contacted the Optimist to convey frustration and concerns regarding X-ray results as well as trying to book heart tests.
Lai said X-ray reports are usually available within three days of a patient undergoing the procedure, but that hasn't been the case lately. He said he eagerly waited X-ray results for over two weeks, causing that patient added stress and anxiety.
He said tried to book another patient a stress cardiogram in September but waited weeks to receive a return message. That patient finally got a test a week ago.
"I went in this morning (to the hospital) to talk to them to see what's going on. They laid off a booking clerk and they are now hiring a part-time girl to do the booking, and there's over 80 of the application forms to fill in to book for the tests and they haven't gotten to them yet," said the Ladner doctor.
"I tried to go there to talk to somebody, but there's nobody to talk to. They gave me a phone number to talk to someone on a management team. People in this town should know what is happening.
I asked why are bookings so delayed, and I was told they are probably hoping people don't use Delta Hospital and go to Surrey, where they are opening a big clinic for cardiograms. That's not acceptable," Lai said.
He said he's been practicing in the community for 40 years and is concerned the increasing delays will result in patients not getting treatment in a timely manner.
A spokesperson for the Fraser Health Authority told the Optimist as far as the X-ray reports, there have been a number of unexpected leaves of absence, resulting in a staffing shortage, and that's combined with another five vacancies that need to be filled.
In the meantime, Fraser Health has been working with the service provider of the transcription services to fill those vacancies as well as prioritizing the more urgent reports.
Noting doctors can always contact radiologists directly, so they don't need to wait for a written report, Delta Hospital site director Annette Garm said she has spoken to Lai about his concerns.
"There has been some transcription time delays in Fraser Health," Garm said.
"We are well aware of them, but they are not insurmountable in that they've been working to address the current backlogs by asking all the radiologists to use exam notes for referring physicians. That's information he (Lai) didn't know, that he can call the radiologist directly here.
"The radiologists, when they're looking at the images, they are prioritizing those that seem unusual and trying to get to the physicians... we want to see our patients getting those reports in a timely manner and we don't want to be creating any false anxiety and worry in the community," she said.
Garm said there have been "some staffing challenges" for booking heart exams. However, Delta Hospital is the only one in the region that continues to accept patients through direct family doctor referrals.
"This is a unique service, this is an augmented service we're providing the GPs in the community. At this time, we are willing to work with our physicians to make sure they continue to have that opportunity to book those tests," said Garm.
Concerned Lai going to the media might paint a negative picture of the hospital when, in fact, the standard of care is extremely high, Garm noted there are two avenues of complaint - one for patients and the other for physicians - that are both followed up.
"This is not representative of any chronic problem or diminishing care. The hospital gives tremendous service, we process more than we ever had with diagnostic imaging, through our emergency, through our ORs, our endoscopies, and we've opened up new medical beds. I said we are responding and we have to work with our physicians to mitigate our challenges."
Later asked if he was satisfied with the response he received, Lai said the situation is still highly unacceptable and his patients are upset.
Saying there are also delays when it comes to ultrasound testing and results, he said one of his patients had an ultrasound booked in early September to take place three weeks later, but it wasn't until Oct. 9 when the results came in that something was wrong.
"The patient was very upset and said I delayed their diagnosis," he said.