Progress on wait times has stalled: report

Progress towards cutting the time Canadians have to wait to get critical operations and health procedures has stalled, a new update on the wait-times initiative suggests.

TORONTO — Progress towards cutting the time Canadians have to wait to get critical operations and health procedures has stalled, a new update on the wait-times initiative suggests.

Though there were early gains after provinces committed themselves to attacking wait times in 2004, there has been little progress since 2009, said Jeremy Veillard, vice president of research and analysis for the Canadian Institutes for Health Information, which monitors the wait times data and issues an annual report.

This year’s report suggests that the situation isn’t necessarily bad, but may not be getting better either. And for some patients, the waits are still excessive.

“These results may seem generally positive, but some patients are still waiting too long for care relative to benchmarks,” Veillard said.

The report suggests about 80 per cent of patients who needed one or another of the seven priority procedures covered by the wait-time guarantees received care within the specified time.

The vast majority of patients — 97 per cent — receive radiation therapy within the recommended time frame of four weeks. Knee replacements had the longest wait times, with only 75 per cent of patients getting the procedure within the agreed-upon time frame.

An equal percentage of patients — 82 per cent — underwent hip replacement and cataract surgery within the wait time benchmark but only 79 per cent of people needing operations to repair hip fractures were cared for within that set time.

Those numbers might actually look better than the reality patients experienced, said Steven Lewis, a health policy consultant based in Saskatchewan.

That’s because under this initiative, the clock starts ticking from when a specialist orders a procedure. But in some cases, getting to see the specialist in the first place is a major part of the wait — and this initiative isn’t designed to attack that problem, Lewis said.

“This is a classic systems-centred measurement. If you had a really patient-centred measurement, you would focus on what part of that experience is meaningful to the patient,” he said.

“And the patient thinks he or she is waiting from the time the GP (general practitioner) estimates that a procedure is warranted to the time it’s actually done.”

“It’s cold comfort for a patient to have the procedure done three months after they’ve seen the specialist when it took them eight months to see the specialist in the first place.”

Lewis said in Britain, a program aimed at capping wait times starts the clock from the time a patient sees his or her family doctor, and aims to have the needed procedure completed within three months.

For patients admitted to hospital, the British system hits the target in 91.4 per cent of the cases, according to government statistics released last week. For patients not admitted to hospital, the success rate is even higher, 97.1 per cent.

In Canada, officials acknowledge it may be impossible to aim for 100 per cent success. Some patients will need to defer surgery for personal reasons and some become ill with other conditions when they wait for surgery. Given that reality, it’s estimated that 90 per cent is a more realistic goal to try to achieve.

And even that is proving tough. In fact, some provinces have lost ground over the last year. British Columbia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island now have longer waits for knee replacements, and P.E.I. also has longer waits for hip replacements and cataract surgeries.

“It is difficult for provinces to reach the 90 per cent threshold. Reports like this identify that there are still opportunities to improve access to care,” said Tracy Johnson, manager of emerging issues at the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Just Posted

Lee seeks UCP nomination in Red Deer

Eyes Red Deer-North constituency

Updated Red Deer smoke free bylaw to ban smoking cannabis in public

Smoke Free Bylaw returns to Red Deer city council Sept. 4

Red Deer city council considers new business licence bylaw

All businesses operating in the City of Red Deer will require a… Continue reading

Saskatchewan farmer’s death triggers emotional harvest of love and respect

MILESTONE, Sask. — Volunteers have rallied to harvest the large wheat crop… Continue reading

Councillors want to represent Red Deer at AUMA

City council approves endorsement

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Animal crackers break out of their cages

After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of… Continue reading

Alligator kills woman trying to protect her dog at resort

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — A woman who often walked her dog… Continue reading

Patients redirected as water leak shuts down Edmonton hospital’s emergency room

EDMONTON — Ambulances are being redirected to other hospitals after a water… Continue reading

Parks Canada moves second bison bull that wandered out of Banff National Park

BANFF — Parks Canada says a second bison bull that wandered out… Continue reading

Lottery for parent sponsorship to be replaced, more applications to be accepted

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is scrapping an unpopular lottery system for… Continue reading

Air Canada-led consortium signs deal to buy Aeroplan program from Aimia

TORONTO — A consortium led by Air Canada has reached a deal… Continue reading

Scheer going to India to ‘repair’ relationship after ‘disastrous’ Trudeau trip

OTTAWA — Six months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy prowess… Continue reading

Police chiefs want new data-sharing treaty with U.S. as privacy questions linger

OTTAWA — Canada’s police chiefs are pressing the Trudeau government to sign… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month