More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

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Wait times for surgery, medical treatments at all-time high
Monday, October 15, 2007
CBC News

Compared to 1993, wait times in 2007 are 97 per cent longer, report finds

The average wait time for a Canadian awaiting surgery or other medical treatment is now 18.3 weeks, a new high, according to a report released Monday.

That's an increase of 97 per cent over 14 years, the report says.

"Canadians wait longer than Americans, Germans, and Swedes for cardiac care, although not as long as New Zealanders or the British," it reads. "Economists attempting to quantify the cost of this waiting time have estimated it to amount to $1,100 to $5,600 annually per patient."

The report, the 17th annual edition of Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada, is published by the Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian research organization.

"Despite government promises and the billions of dollars funnelled into the Canadian health-care system, the average patient waited more than 18 weeks in 2007 between seeing their family doctor and receiving the surgery or treatment they required," said Nadeem Esmail, director of Health System Performance Studies at the Fraser Institute and co-author of the report, in a release.

The total median waiting time for patients between referral from a general practitioner and treatment, averaged across all 12 specialties and 10 provinces surveyed, increased to 18.3 weeks from 17.8 weeks in 2006, according to the report.

"The small increase in waiting time between 2006 and 2007 is primarily the result of an increase in the first wait – the wait between visiting a general practitioner and attending a consultation with a specialist," the report says.

The report also found that total wait times increased in six provinces: Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island lowered their wait times.

Waiting times best in Ontario
Ontario recorded the shortest wait time overall (the wait between visiting a general practitioner and receiving treatment) at 15.0 weeks, followed by British Columbia (19.0 weeks) and Quebec (19.4 weeks). Saskatchewan (27.2 weeks), New Brunswick (25.2 weeks) and Nova Scotia (24.8 weeks) recorded the longest waits in Canada.

Despite have one of the shorter waits among the provinces, Quebec's 19.4-week wait shows that despite more money directed at fixing the problem, there hasn't been any improvement, Tasha Kheiriddin, the Quebec director of the Fraser Institute, told CBC News Monday.

She says Quebec has invested millions of dollars over the past few years in efforts to reduce wait times, but that inefficiencies in the public system are proving to be obstacles.

"What this tells us is spending more money in the system does not decrease wait times. In fact it's the opposite result, so we have to look at other solutions," she said.

Across Canada, the wait time between referral by a GP and consultation with a specialist rose to 9.2 weeks from the 8.8 weeks recorded in 2006. The shortest waits for specialist consultations were in Ontario (7.6 weeks), Manitoba (8.2 weeks) and British Columbia (8.8 weeks).

The longest waits for consultation with a specialist were recorded in New Brunswick (14.7 weeks), Newfoundland and Labrador (13.5 weeks) and Prince Edward Island (12.7 weeks).

The wait time between a specialist consultation and treatment – the second stage of waiting – increased to 9.1 weeks from 9.0 weeks in 2006. The shortest specialist-to-treatment waits were found in Ontario (7.3 weeks), Alberta (8.9 weeks) and Quebec (9.4 weeks), while the longest waits were in Saskatchewan (16.5 weeks), Nova Scotia (13.6 weeks) and Manitoba (12.0 weeks).

The shortest total waits (between referral by a general practitioner and treatment) occurred in medical oncology (4.2 weeks), radiation oncology (5.7 weeks) and elective cardiovascular surgery (8.4 weeks).

Patients endured the longest waits between a GP referral and orthopedic surgery (38.1 weeks), plastic surgery (34.8 weeks) and neurosurgery (27.2 weeks).

Nova Scotia best for CT scans
Patients also experienced significant waiting times for various diagnostic tests across Canada, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound scans.

The median wait for a CT scan across Canada was 4.8 weeks. British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had the shortest waits for CT scans (4.0 weeks), with Manitoba experiencing the highest wait (8.0 weeks).

The median wait for an MRI across Canada was 10.1 weeks. Patients in Ontario experienced the shortest wait for an MRI (7.8 weeks), while Newfoundland and Labrador residents waited the longest (20.0 weeks).
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