Provincial and territorial governments have reduced the wait to be treated for cancer and other priority health problems, but are failing in some areas, a physicians groupwarns.

A report card released Wednesday by the Wait Time Alliance gave the governments an overall score of "A" for speeding through cancer and cardiac patients.

However, the governmentsonly scored a "C" for the lengthy delays faced by patients who needed joint replacements and sight restorations for problems such as cataracts.

They did even worse in terms of establishing meaningful reductions in wait times andspeeding up access todiagnostic imaging —earning an "incomplete" in both areas.

The Wait Time Alliancewas created in 2004 to provide governments with advice from the physicians' perspective on medically acceptable wait-time benchmarks. It includes the Canadian Medical Association and other national organizations representing experts such as radiation oncologists and cardiovascular specialists.

The group issued the interim report cardto follow up onthe 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care set by provincial and territorial leaders in 2004.

They measured the progress on those goalsaccording tobenchmarks for wait times in the five highest priority areas — cancer, cardiac care, diagnostic imaging, joint replacement and sight restoration — set by the alliance in August 2005 and by the governments in December of that year.

Government efforts on wait times show promise, said the alliance's co-chair, Dr. Lorne Bellan.

"However, like in most school classes, there are some high achievers and some who could really stand to apply themselves more," Bellan said.

How they scored

Overall, governments scored:

  • Afor funding.
  • B for establishing benchmarks.
  • C for providing information.
  • D developing targets.
  • An "incomplete" for establishing access indicators and meaningful reductions in wait times.

The marks assigned for medically acceptable wait times in the five highest priority areaswere:

  • An A for both cancer care and cardiac care. The mark slips to B and C respectively when judged on the alliance's benchmarks, which were set through medical consensus.
  • A C for joint replacement and sight restoration such as cataracts. The mark is the same under both plans.
  • An "incomplete" for diagnostic imaging since a benchmark hasn't yet been set. Under the alliance's benchmark, this area earns an F.

The alliance's co-chair, Normand Laberge, said the government benchmarks were less stringent than the alliance's, but were a good start.

The lack of public information on wait times progress was the most worrying part, the group said.