NYC mammo waiting times dangerously long

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Hospital closures and budget cuts in New York City (NYC) have contributed to “dangerously long” wait times of nearly two months for diagnostic mammograms in the city, according to a report released by the NYC Comptroller.

Women undergoing diagnostic mammograms were forced to wait 50 working days at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, the hospital that performed the most mammograms in NYC in 2009 (11,425). For women attempting to schedule screening mammograms at Elmhurst, wait time was 148 calendar days.

Other hospitals slow to schedule diagnostic mammograms included Brooklyn’s Woodhull Hospital at 28 days and Kings County Hospital at 21 days.

Wait time from scheduling to screening mammograms took 49 days at Queens Hospital and 41 days at Woodhull Hospital. Though substantially shorter than Elmhurst’s 148-day wait time for screening exams, these waits dramatically exceeded the 14-day guideline for screenings put forth by the Health and Hospitals Corporation, New York City’s public hospital system.

While praising some of the Health and Hospitals Corporation’s response to hospital closures and budget cuts, City Comptroller John C. Liu said, “This audit nonetheless uncovers problems that require attention and resources so that women’s lives and health are not put at risk.”

Liu recommended that the public hospital system establish a standard for diagnostic wait times, similar to the 14-day guideline existing for screening times, to which the comptroller’s audit showed the hospitals could not adhere. The comptroller expressed further concern about high numbers of missed appointments, pointing to National Institutes of Health (NIH) findings that longer wait times are associated with more missed mammography appointments.