Kelowna News

Surgical wait times for medically necessary treatments high, says think tank

Expanded operating room space means more surgeries for Royal Inland Hospital.

The median wait time for medically necessary treatment in Canada this year was 20.9 weeks, according to right wing think tank the Fraser Institute.

This is the second-longest wait ever recorded by the Fraser Institute, which has been measuring wait times across Canada since 1993 when patients waited just 9.3 weeks.

“Across Canada, patients continue to wait for more than four months for medically necessary treatment—a fact that should concern not just patients and their families but also policymakers in Ottawa and across the country,” Bacchus Barua, associate director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute said in a press release.

The study examines the total wait time patients face across 12 medical specialties— from referral by a general practitioner (i.e. family doctor) to consultation with a specialist, to when the patient ultimately receives treatment.

Among the provinces, Ontario has the shortest median wait time this year at 16.0 weeks, and Prince Edward Island recorded the longest wait time (49.3 weeks). B.C.'s wait time was 24 weeks.

Nationally, wait times were longest for orthopedic surgery (39.1 weeks) and plastic surgery (28.7 weeks) and the shortest for medical oncology (4.4 weeks).

“Long wait times for medically necessary treatments increase suffering for patients, decrease quality of life, and in the worst cases, lead to disability or death,” Barua said.

“Policymakers in Ottawa and at the provincial level should review the outdated health policies that are contributing to long wait times for Canadians seeking medical treatments.”

More than half of all surgeries in B.C. are performed to address a medical emergency or a condition that requires immediate attention. Scheduled surgery, though medically necessary, is planned in advance. For this type of surgery, a surgeon’s office sends a booking package to the health authority where the surgery will be performed. Until the date of their surgery, the patient is placed on a waitlist, according to the Ministry of Health.

The B.C. Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Provincial Surgical Executive Committee and the health authorities, has developed plans to improve timely access to appropriate scheduled surgical procedures, optimally manage surgical waitlists, and improve the patient experience. Actions include:
Improve Timely Access

• Measuring and monitoring the Wait to See a Surgeon and the Wait for Surgery times in B.C. The Ministry sets targets for wait times in the province, and works with health authorities to meet the targets.?

• Making operating rooms more efficient and finding ways to perform more surgeries using existing resources.?

• Developing Surgical Services Programs, new health authority programs responsible for coordinating and/or providing all of the services a surgical patient requires, from diagnosis to post-operative care.?

• Developing an appropriateness framework for surgery, a set of guidelines intended to prevent unnecessary tests and treatments and to ensure that care is safe and effective.

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