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NYC Mammogram Waits ‘Dangerously Long’

May 7, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging, Diagnostic Imaging
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New York’s city comptroller, John C. Liu, says some public New York City hospitals make women wait “dangerously long” times for mammograms—up to 148 days on average for a screening mammogram at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

The comptroller’s audit report, released this week, covered nine hospitals operated by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), which runs the city’s public medical facilities. The HHC largely serves the poor and working class.

Officials at the hospitals with the longest waits blamed budget cuts and recent closures of other hospitals.

The report did note that “HHC radiologists read and interpreted mammogram exam results in a timely manner.” And, it said, “The HHC has performed admirably in the wake of private hospital closures, and shrinking budgets and reimbursements.” However, it added:

This audit nonetheless uncovers problems that require attention and resources so that women’s lives and health are not put at risk.

The report covered fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30, 2009. It said that HHC guidelines call for a wait of no longer than 14 days for a screening mammogram. It found that the average wait was 148 days at Elmhurst, 49 days at Queens Hospital in Queens, and 41 days at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn.

The HHC has no guideline regarding waits for diagnostic mammograms. The audit found average waits for diagnostic mammograms of 50 working days at Elmhurst, 28 working days at Woodhull, 21 working days at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, 20 working days at Gouverneur Hospital in Manhattan, and 17 working days at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.

The report quoted Lois Uttley, cofounder of the Manhattan-based organization Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need, as saying: “For a woman who is worried she might have breast cancer, a 50-day wait for a diagnostic mammogram can be agonizing and could delay urgently needed treatment. Many of the women who depend on HHC facilities are uninsured and cannot afford to go somewhere else for a mammogram.”

The report points out that, according to the National Institutes of Health, the longer the wait for a mammogram, the greater the chance that the patient will miss her appointment. It noted a high number of missed appointments at Elmhurst, the hospital with the longest waits.

Elmhurse performed the most mammograms, 11,425, of any HHC hospital during the year in question. Queens Hospital was second with 10,544.

The HHC, responding to the report, said it was reviewing its mammogram performance standards, seeking to reduce wait times if possible, and reviewing the possibility of making appointment reminder calls.

Related seminar: Breast Imaging and Digital Mammography

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