Mumbai: Long wait for MRI, CT scans traumatises patients

The relatives of patients have to either shell hefty amount to get scans done at private facilities or wait for longer period of time as the civic hospitals' radiology department is already overburdened due to limited machines.

Swapnil MishraUpdated: Monday, November 14, 2022, 10:15 AM IST
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MRI scan machine. | Representative Photo

The wait for thousands of patients who visit various public hospitals in the city to get their magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT)Scan seems to be never-ending. It is either that or the machine is non-functional.

Relatives of patients have to run from pillar to post to get an appointment and often end up shelling hefty amounts from their pockets for getting the scans done at private clinics.

The poor have no option but to turn to civic-run hospitals as private hospitals or clinics are unaffordable. Consequently, queues of patients requiring MRI scans at civic-run hospitals get longer and the wait goes up to three months or they get referred to one of the peripheral hospitals, thanks to the overburdened radiology departments and very few machines.

In a recent case, Sanjay Gupta, 40, (name changed) travelled 600 km for 12 hours from Nanded with his family of five, including his aged father and a 10-year-old son, to Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospital.

Gupta, a construction worker, had sustained a spinal injury that incapacitated his legs. His family wanted to continue treatment for him at a private hospital but could not afford it. So they moved him to the King Edward Memorial hospital.

Their woes worsened when they were asked to ge tan MRI done before the doctor’s consultation. The hospital only has one MRI machine at the moment. “We were told that we would have to wait until January next year. They gave us an appointment for December 15 after we explained our predicament,” said Sachin Gupta, Sanjay’s younger brother, also a daily wage earner.

Sanjay’s family had to spend more than Rs 20,000 rupees for a two-day journey as it involved provision for travel and food. “My brother is wheelchair-bound, so we had to travel in taxis which cost us more. Staying in Mumbai with family is an added burden,” said Sachin. “Our income has stopped as we are daily wage earners. We borrowed a large sum from a money lender for this trip,” Sanjay adds.

Civic-run hospitals charge Rs 2,500 for an MRI scan, which is nearly half the rate at private hospitals and diagnostic centers. The underprivileged have little option but to wait, said a social worker who helps the poor with the admission process at public hospitals.

Every day the MRI department at the civic-run hospitals gets around 50 to 60 patients, who request the earliest possible appointment. However, the hospital manages only 12-15 scans daily.

In another case, a patient who had come for a routine check-up at BYL Nair hospital from Nallasopara had to visit thrice a week to get an MRI appointment urgently as he was experiencing severe pain in his spine.

“My family doctor advised an MRI scan as I sustained an injury while working out in the gym. I work at Churchgate, I preferred Nair hospital as it is nearby, But it was a nightmare for me as I had to visit the hospital thrice a week for an appointment. There are many like me who have been waiting long for an appointment,” said Gaurav Gada, a retail store employee.

According to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) on domestic tourism in India (2014-15), a total of 36.6 million health-related trips were made within the country, including travel within the home district and to other districts in the home state as well as in other states. In Mumbai itself,over 30 percent of people in Mumbai’s government hospitals come from rural areas of Maharashtra and other states.

Like KEM, Sion Hospital, too, faces a shortage of MRI machines. The hospital currently has two out of which one has been used extensively. “We do about 25 MRIs per day. It is a lengthy process that takes about 45 minutes, unlike CT scans which we conduct about 150 every day,” says hospital Dean Dr Mohan Joshi. Sion Hospital sees a demand of roughly 100 MRIs on a daily basis, Dr Joshi informs.

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