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Elmhurst Hosp. fights Liu on screening audit

City Comptroller John Liu said an audit of the city’s hospitals revealed Elmhurst Hospital Center has the longest wait times for screening and diagnostic mammograms in the city, but the city Health and Hospitals Corp. said Liu’s conclusions were based on out-of-date data.

Liu released the results of his audit last week, which looked at how long it took for women to receive mammograms at nine of the city HHC hospitals. The audit found Elmhurst Hospital had the longest wait times both for screening mammograms, which are meant to be regular checkups for breast cancer, and diagnostic mammograms, which are made when medical staff needs an additional scan whether for a bad angle or a potentially dangerous aberration such as a lump.

Women who went to Elmhurst Hospital Center, at 79-01 Broadway, had to wait 148 calendar days for a screening mammogram and 50 working days for a diagnostic mammogram, the audit found.

“For years, city policy has emphasized the need for women to get mammograms,” Liu said in a statement. “Unfortunately, significant shortfalls and lapses at city hospitals have undercut that intent and worse yet placed women in jeopardy.”

Both of these wait times were substantially larger than the second-worst on both lists. Queens Hospital Center, at 82-68 164th St. in Jamaica, had the second-worst wait for screening mammograms with 49 calendar days and Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn had the second-worst wait for diagnostic mammograms with 28 working days.

“We hope the comptroller’s alarming message from outdated data does not discourage any New York woman from seeking a mammogram at an HHC hospital or health center,” the HHC said.

Elmhurst and Queens hospitals were the only two Queens hospitals on the list. Both are public hospitals.

HHC released a statement saying the comptroller auditors had only reviewed data from fiscal year 2009 and contended the city’s hospitals had made many improvements to the hospitals during that time. It also said the delay for a diagnostic mammogram when medical staff have found a potentially cancerous lump is only zero to 72 hours and has always been so.

Liu’s office said HHC should create a guideline for diagnostic mammograms, set mammogram appointments within 14 days and send patients reminders of their mammogram appointments. The office said HHC is reviewing its performance standards for setting screening mammograms appointments, creating a performance standard for diagnostic mammogram appointments and reviewing how often reminder calls for mammogram appointments are made.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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