Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Guest Editor | Long waiting time for test results adding to grief of cancer patients

Published:Monday | October 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton

The outsourcing of medical tests and improvements at the National Public Health Laboratories and other regional laboratories are among efforts the Ministry of Health said it is taking to improve the turnaround time for medical results needed by cancer patients.

"This is a long-term plan," Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said.

There have been concerns over the long wait to get certain test results that are needed to diagnose or determine the appropriate treatment for cancer. Breast cancer survivor Elris Ebanks told The Gleaner that it took her nearly months to get back the results of a receptor test, which were needed before she could start chemotherapy.

"I sent up that in December and I didn't get it back until February," she said.

Senior medical officer at the Kingston Public Hospital Dr Natalie Whylie said that while the results of blood tests are usually available within a few hours, there are challenges with getting the results for other types of tests.

"Where there is a challenge is with the pathology results because there are not enough pathologists at the National Public Health Lab," she said, adding that the training and recruitment of pathologists is a national priority. "So that impacts on us getting back the histology results," she said.

She noted that there have been improvements at the lab in recent times and that this should auger well for breast cancer patients.

"The National Public Health Lab is now offering oestrogen receptor testing for breast cancer. So that is something that we are excited about because before, it would have to be either done through University Hospital [of the West Indies] or through private labs, but they have rolled that out," Whylie said.

General and laparoscopic surgeon Dr Michael McFarlane said that most of the complaints he has heard about the long wait time for laboratory results are from those who use public hospitals.

"Sometimes there is a backlog in the public hospitals, depending on where the results are available," he said.

"Patients who are treated, usually in private hospitals, will get their results within five to seven days, and there is not usually a problem like that," he said.