The B.C. government hopes to have 20 per cent of the province's hospitals on a new funding system by 2012. ((CBC))

The B.C. government plans to shift the province's 23 largest hospitals to a per-patient funding model that is intended to reduce surgical wait times.

Pilot projects involving patient-focused funding for hip and knee replacements, breast cancer diagnosis, spinal surgery and speedier service in emergency departments have shown the system increases efficiency, B.C. Health Minister Kevin Falcon said in announcing the plan Monday.

It changes the current system of allotting a set amount of funding for services to a system where hospitals are, in part, paid out on a per-patient basis.

'What happens in Canada right now, if we're honest with the public, is that we ration elective procedures.' —Health Minister Kevin Falcon

That means the more patients a hospital treats, the more money it will get from the province.

Falcon said that within two years, about 20 per cent of hospital funding in B.C. will involve patient-focused funding and the rest will continue under the current block payment model.

Rewarding hospitals for the work they do instead of handing them a pot of money up front is the way to go and has produced results in other countries, Falcon said.

"What happens in Canada right now, if we're honest with the public, is that we ration elective procedures," he said, adding B.C. is the only province to try what he called "patient-focused funding."

NDP says it won't work

But the legislature's opposition argued that the funding change could have the opposite effect.

"It's going to increase administrative and bureaucratic costs," said NDP health critic Adrian Dix.

"It's going to divert costs from serving patients to more accountants and more bureaucracy. It's going to make healthcare spending more complicated and it's not going to address the real issues."

Dix said the province is using a flawed variation on a U.K. per-patient funding model.

The British government brought in the new payment plan while at the same time pumping new monies into the health-care system and only then did wait times decline, said Dix.

Dr. Bassam Masri, head of the surgery departments at the University of B.C. and Vancouver General Hospital, said a more efficient hip- and knee-replacement system at UBC has meant a 10-per-cent reduction in costs, allowing more surgeries to be done.

"With the same amount of money we did an extra 50 procedures a year, without going [into] overtime."

With files from The Canadian Press