Wait times for surgery averages 18.2 weeks

First increase since 2007 and second longest recorded, says Fraser Institute
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 12/16/2010

Canadians seeking surgical or other therapeutic treatment faced a median wait time of 18.2 weeks in 2010, the first increase since 2007 and the second-longest wait time recorded, according to a new report from the Fraser Institute.

“The wait times recorded in 2010 were exceeded only by the 18.3-week wait time recorded in 2007. After two years of decreasing wait times, the country has done an about-face,” said Mark Rovere, associate director of health policy research at the public policy think-tank.

Wait times between 2009 and 2010 increased in both the delay between referral by a general practitioner to consultation with a specialist (rising to 8.9 weeks from 8.2 weeks in 2009), and the delay between a consultation with a specialist and receiving treatment (rising to 9.3 weeks from 8.0 weeks in 2009), according to the Waiting Your Turn report.

“Canadians today are waiting, on average, 141 per cent longer than in 1993 for consultation with a specialist after referral by a general practitioner and 66 per cent longer to receive treatment after specialist consultation. This paints a grim forecast for the future,” said Rovere.

The shortest total waits are for medical oncology (4.9 weeks), radiation oncology (5.5 weeks) and elective cardiovascular surgery (10.0 weeks). Conversely, patients waited longest between a GP referral and orthopedic surgery (35.6 weeks), plastic surgery (31.5 weeks), and neurosurgery (29.7 weeks).

Provincial differences, similarities

Ontario recorded the shortest total wait time (the wait between referral by a general practitioner and receiving treatment) at 14 weeks, up from 12.5 weeks in 2009. Manitoba had the second-shortest total wait at 17.5 weeks, up from 14.3 weeks in 2009. Quebec and British Columbia tied for third at 18.8 weeks, Quebec’s median wait increasing from 16.6 weeks and B.C.’s from 17.0 weeks in 2009.

Alberta saw its median wait time increase to 22.1 weeks from 19.6 weeks in 2009, Saskatchewan rose to 26.5 weeks from 25.2 weeks in 2009, Nova Scotia jumped to 28.5 weeks from 23.1 weeks, while Newfoundland & Labrador increased to 29.1 weeks from 27.3 in 2009.

Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick recorded the longest wait times (44.4 weeks and 33.6 weeks, respectively), though the number of survey responses was lower than most provinces which may result in reported median wait times being higher or lower than those actually experienced.

The provinces with the shortest wait times between referral by a general practitioner and consultation with a specialist are Saskatchewan (6.7 weeks), Ontario (7.8 weeks), and British Columbia (8.2 weeks). The longest waits for consultation with a specialist are found in New Brunswick (24.6 weeks), Prince Edward Island (22.0 weeks), and Newfoundland & Labrador (14.7 weeks).

The waiting time between specialist consultation and treatment, the second stage of waiting, is the lowest in Ontario (6.2 weeks), followed by Manitoba (8.9 weeks) and New Brunswick (9.0 weeks). The longest waits are found in Prince Edward Island (22.4 weeks), Saskatchewan (19.7 weeks), and Nova Scotia (15.5 weeks).

“Despite huge hikes in health spending, Canadians are waiting 96 per cent longer for surgery than they did in 1993,” said Rovere.

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