Cathers promises to reduce mammography wait times

The Yukon government promised to define the number of weeks women must wait for mammography screening in the territory, Health Minister Brad Cathers…

The Yukon government promised to define the number of weeks women must wait for mammography screening in the territory, Health Minister Brad Cathers told reporters this week.

Currently the average wait time for a mammography screening in the territory is 10 weeks.

“We’d like to be looking somewhere in the neighbourhood of a month,” said Cathers.

Far too often Yukoners have to leave the territory for procedures because of long wait times or insufficient services, he said.

“As a small jurisdiction the Yukon faces unique challenges in providing our services to Yukon citizens.

“In many instances we are forced to access services outside our borders and continue to work with the southern provinces, particularly BC and Alberta, to provide those services outside our borders and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

Federal funding of $4.5 million will go towards establishing the wait-time guarantee by 2010.

But the Yukon government hopes to establish the guarantee in the next three years, said Cathers.

“The other northern jurisdictions in NWT and Nunavut only had to commit to establishing a guarantee within three years,” said Cathers.

“We’re going to be moving rather more quickly than that and we’ll be announcing it in the near future, but we have to finalize the work with hospital preparation first.”

The Whitehorse hospital might have to hire new technicians before wait-times can be guaranteed, said Cathers.

But he was vague about the details.

“We’ll be working with the hospital and once that planning is done we’ll be able to better understand what parameters the wait-time guarantee will have to be set around,” he said.

Part of the federal funding will go towards other ways to improve access to health services and reduce wait times in other areas.

This funding initiative was announced in Yellowknife Wednesday.

Cathers, federal Health Minister Tony Clement and health ministers from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut agreed to establish a wait-time guarantee for mammography screening within each of the three territories.

The Yukon is also eligible to receive part of the $400 million in federal funding Ottawa has promised for Canada Health Infoway, a project that will establish electronic health-record databases.

An additional $30 million from Ottawa will be spread over three years for health pilot projects, which were announced in the 2007 federal budget.

Cathers could not say what pilot projects the Yukon might be hosting or how much of the $30 million might be flowing into the territory.

Breast cancer death rates among women in Canada have fallen by 25 per cent since 1986, and more women are living longer after a breast cancer diagnosis, according to the Canadian Cancer Society’s website.

More than 22,000 women across the country will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, including 2,700 cases in BC, according to the society.

The numbers don’t need to be that high, vice-president of strategic initiatives for the Canadian Cancer Society’s BC and Yukon division Cathy Adair said in a release.

“Preventative strategies such as screening mammography are known to reduce illnesses, save lives, and control health care costs but they still don’t receive the attention they deserve.”

Primary prevention is relegated to ‘poor cousin’ status in health care even though reductions in diseases like breast cancer are linked to policies that encourage individual lifestyle choices that can help prevent illness, she said.