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Brown reopens CT scan unit

The waiting list for CT scans has not increased since one of the island's two scanners was shut down, the Bermuda Hospitals Board has said.

Ewart Brown, a doctor and former premier, said this week he was to reopen the CT unit at his Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith's after a nine-month closure because of “public demand for quicker access to exams and reports”.

But the BHB earlier told The Royal Gazette there had been no change in waiting times for patients in need of a diagnostic CT scan since Dr Brown's unit closed in January.

Figures provided by the board showed only a small increase in the number of CT scans carried out at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in the six-month period after the closure of the Brown-Darrell unit, compared with the same period in 2017.

There were 6,808 CT scans carried out between February and July 2018, compared with 6,775 between February and July last year.

A BHB spokeswoman said: “Although numbers have gone up slightly, there has been no change in wait times for this time period. Currently, it is just under two weeks for elective, that is planned, CT scans.

“Emergency referrals are not subject to a wait time and are undertaken as needed.”

Dr Brown said his decision to reopen the unit was also based on the Government's plan to increase fees for scans after they were slashed by the former One Bermuda Alliance administration last year.

He claimed there was a backlog of about two weeks for patients to get CT scans at the hospital while his equipment was shut down.

Dr Brown said: “That's not unusual for hospital based CT scans. They never know how much traffic they're going to have from the emergency room or from inpatients.

“Those are always higher priority than outpatients. It shows that the island needs another CT.”

Dr Brown added he had received calls and e-mails about the delays on “a daily basis”.

He said: “My information is that the wait at the hospital is two weeks.

“When we open, with both places working efficiently, Bermudians can have their scans done within days, not weeks.”

Tawanna Wedderburn, chief executive of the Bermuda Health Council, told The Royal Gazette last week: “There is no guideline on how many CT scanners per population a country should have, although the World Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development track data for each country.

“If there are not enough CT scanners in Bermuda, there will be wait times, people may get sicker, and people will not have choice in where to receive care.

“If there are too many CT scanners, people may be exposed to too much unnecessary testing and healthcare costs will increase.”

She added: “Bermuda has three scanners — two at BHB and one at the Brown-Darrell clinic. There are two scanners in use today and that is the two at the hospital.

“The availability of CT scanners is higher in Bermuda than other countries, when two scanners are available for use.

“Current capacity in the health system can meet the demand of an ageing population, enabling people to receive care without compromising quality.”

Dr Brown closed the unit at Brown-Darrell at the end of January.

The closure followed a government grant of $120,000 to the Brown-Darrell Clinic and another of $480,000 to Dr Brown's other clinic, Bermuda Healthcare Services in Paget, which has an MRI machine.

The new increased scan fees will come into force on November 1 and Dr Brown announced on Monday that CT scanning would resume at Brown-Darrell two days later.

He said that up until June 2017, Brown-Darrell was a “busy” clinic.

But he said the fee reductions meant the practice took a huge financial hit, with procedures charged at far lower rates — more than 80 per cent less in some cases.

Bermuda Health Council has insisted the fees were cut as part of a bid to drive down healthcare costs.

Dr Brown claimed the impact of diagnostic imaging on healthcare costs was “blown vastly out of proportion”.

He repeated allegations that the health council recommended the cuts as part of a “political vendetta” against him. The health council has denied the claim.

JJ Soares, a GP who joined Dr Brown last October to threaten legal action against the Government over the fee cuts, is scheduled to open a clinic in Hamilton to offer MRI and CT scans.

Ms Wedderburn said the two MRI machines already in use at KEMH and Bermuda Healthcare Services were enough to “meet demand without compromising quality”.

UPDATE: this article has been amended to confirm that there are three CT scanners on island, and not two.

Calls and e-mails: Ewart Brown (File photograph)

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Published September 26, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 27, 2018 at 12:36 pm)

Brown reopens CT scan unit

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