British Columbia

Surgery wait lists in B.C. grow larger than population of some cities, report says

Wait times for surgery in B.C. have tripled since 2002, say the province's anesthesiologists, who are urging more collaboration between the government, political parties and health authorities to solve the issue.

B.C. Anesthesiologists Society calling for more collaborative action

Of the 85,000 British Columbians waiting for surgery last year, 35,000 had already passed the 6-month recommended maximum wait said Dr. Roland Orfaly, CEO of the B.C. Anesthesiologists Society. (Shuttershock)

Wait times for surgery in B.C. have tripled since 2002, say the province's anesthesiologists, who are urging more collaboration between the government, political parties and health authorities to solve the issue.

More than 85,000 British Columbians were waiting for surgery at the end of the last fiscal year, according to data logged by the Ministry of Health and presented Tuesday in a 10-page discussion paper by the B.C. Anesthesiologists Society.

"To me, it's an incredible number," said Dr. Roland Orfaly, CEO of the society, which represents more than 400 professionals in the province.

"To put that into context: that's larger than the number of people who live in a city like Port Coquitlam or a city like New Westminster."

Orfaly says the new paper hopes to illustrate the extent of the problem and signal that B.C.'s anesthesiologists want to work with the provincial government, regional health authorities and other health-care providers to reduce the wait lists. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Acceptable wait limits

According to national guidelines that came out of a First Ministers' meeting back in 2004, the longest acceptable wait time for a surgery is 26 weeks — around six months.

"Of those 85,000 people who were waiting at the end of the last fiscal year, 35,000 of them had already waited longer than that maximum acceptable benchmark," Orfaly told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

There are no easy solutions, he emphasized, and any fix will have to come out of working with the provincial government, the regional health authorities and other health-care providers.

"This isn't a problem that's developed overnight," he said.

The province's doctors are currently negotiating a new agreement with the government next year and some have pointed to compensation as an underlying reason for medical waits.

Orfaly disagrees and says the problem runs much deeper.

"Frankly, I don't think that a multifactorial, complex problem like surgical wait times is going to be addressed at a compensation table," Orfaly said.

He pointed out the political platforms and promises of B.C.'s three major parties during the last election as an opportunity to work together.  

"This is not a partisan issue, this is a public issue," Orfaly said.

"We need to get all the stakeholders, including patients and their families, at one table and figure out what's going to work."

Anesthesiologists across British Columbia are urging more action to reduce wait times for surgery, which they say had tripled since 2002. 6:48

With files from The Early Edition

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