Use of CT scanner levels off

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The rate of use of a computer tomography (CT) scanner at Oamaru Hospital is on a par with that of one in Dunedin, a study shows.

Initially there were concerns the scanner, installed in 2008 – the second in a rural hospital in New Zealand – was at risk of over use.

The study’s findings, recently published in the international journal Health Policy, indicated the scanning rate for Oamaru almost doubled after it was installed.

However, the it found that by 2012, Oamaru’s scanning rates had dropped to be on par with Dunedin.

Oamaru Hospital chief executive Robert Gonzales said the initial surge in demand was due to a long waiting list for scans.

“At the time there was only one scanner serving the Otago region in Dunedin. There was a huge backlog and one of the difficulties we were having in Oamaru was finding times for the population in Oamaru to access the scanner.

“In two or three months [after the Oamaru scanner was installed], the waiting list had gone down significantly. It was what we expected.”

Dr Garry Nixon, who conducted the study, agreed with Mr Gonzales.

“The sharp rise in scanning rates and then levelling off suggest that the high rates seen in the first two years were the result of pent-up demand and not an indication of long-term overservicing,” he said.

Mr Gonzalez said there was a high level of satisfaction among patients in Oamaru that they were able to have their scans done locally.

Oamaru’s scanner is not fully funded by Southern District Health Board (SDHB). However, Mr Gonzales said the hospital, which is operated by Waitaki District Health Services, hopes to secure full funding sooner rather than later.

“We’re hoping in the very near future we get 100% support funding-wise for the scanner. At this point in time that’s not forthcoming, but we are continuing to bring it up with the SDHB for future operational funding that would enable us to scan everyone in Waitaki we can, locally.”

The analysis of scanning rates in Oamaru was recently published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health.

By Daniel Birchfield