Wait times for some surgeries down; MRI lists still long
Last Updated: Friday, February 29, 2008 | 3:00 PM ET
Wait times for many medical procedures in Ontario are decreasing, according to the province's adviser on wait times.
Dr. Alan Hudson, who was appointed last fall by Premier Dalton McGuinty to devise a wait times strategy for Ontario's emergency rooms, says waits for cataract surgery and hip and knee replacements have dropped dramatically in the last three years.
"In fact, sometimes we have patients saying: 'I don't want that surgery that soon; you're going too fast,'" he said.
Wait times for MRIs, however, remain long: The average wait is 120 days, despite a provincial target of 28 days. Even with new machines and more trained technicians, hospitals haven't made much progress, Hudson said.
The McGuinty government has promised to bring down wait times in emergency rooms over the next four years and to begin publishing annual data comparing the waits times between hospitals.
More home care instead of ER visits
Emergency-room improvements require finding ways to make sure beds are occupied only by those who truly need them, Hudson said.
That task requires the work of Local Integrated Health Networks — Crown agencies responsible for the planning, integration and funding of regional health service providers.
The networks are in the process of strategizing about ways to keep patients out of emergency rooms if they don't really need to be there.
New initiatives are aimed at helping people, especially the elderly, stay in their homes with additional support, said Mike Barrett of Ontario's Southwest network.
"Whether that's diagnostics … or lab work that comes to the home, or actual physicians, … that ensures the resident can stay in their own home and not need to visit the emergency department," Barrett said.
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