Priority surgeries demand adds to wait time pressure

More Canadians are being referred for priority surgeries, which is increasing pressure on provinces trying to reduce wait times, says a new report.

Aging population increases number of patients with surgical priorities

More Canadians are being referred for priority surgeries, which is increasing pressure on provinces trying to reduce wait times, says a new report.

Thursday’s report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Wait Times for Priority Procedures in Canada, 2014, focuses on five priority areas for all provinces:

  • Knee replacement.
  • Hip replacement.
  • Hip fracture repair.
  • Cataract surgery.
  • Radiation therapy.

"Over the past three years, wait times for priority procedures have remained virtually unchanged, while the number of procedures has continued to rise," the report’s authors wrote.

"Ensuring that all patients receive priority procedures in a timely manner will continue to be a concern in the years ahead, especially since the number of patients continues to  grow."

Canadian doctors continued to meet higher demands, performing between five per cent and 17 per cent more procedures in 2013 than three years earlier.

Despite the effort, some patients are waiting longer than recommended.

For example, while half of patients received a knee replacement in 104 days, one out 10 waited 263 days or more.

Degenerative arthritis from the chronic breakdown of cartilage was the reason why 97 per cent of knee replacements were needed. The Arthritis Society notes degenerative arthritis is becoming increasingly common among those aged 55 to 65.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information says that for the first time, all provinces reported that at least 90 per cent of patients receiving radiation therapy were treated within 28 days.

Provinces are now turning to other cancer areas, such as cancer surgery wait times. Half of breast cancer surgery patients were treated in less than three weeks. Prostate cancer surgery patients waited longer than other cancer surgery patients, although the growing popularity of "watchful waiting" suggests men may have similar survival rates for the often slow-growing malignancy.

Over the last three years for cataract surgery, P.E.I., Ontario and Manitoba saw a decline in the proportion receiving the procedure within the 16-week benchmark for the procedure while Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. improved.  


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