Manitoba

Manitoba gets failing grade for prostate cancer treatment wait times

Manitoba has been given a failing and a near-failing grade for prostate and breast cancer treatment wait times by Canada's Wait Times Alliance.

Wait Times Alliance gives Manitoba F for prostate cancer treatment wait times, D for breast cancer

Manitoba has been given a failing and a near-failing grade for prostate and breast cancer treatment wait times from Canada's Wait Times Alliance.

Manitoba has been given a failing and a near-failing grade for prostate and breast cancer treatment wait times by Canada's Wait Times Alliance.

The group released their annual wait time report card on Tuesday, giving Manitoba an F for wait times for radiation and curative care treatment for prostate cancer and a D for the same treatments for breast cancer.

Manitoba has received an F for prostate cancer treatment wait times for more than five years, and a D in breast cancer treatment wait times for the past four years.

"I think when there are grades like Ds and Fs, that should be cause for concern," said Chris Simpson, a cardiologist and chair of the Wait Time Alliance.

It's literally a matter of life and death for many patients,- Chris Simpson, cardiologist and chair of Wait Time Alliance

The waits are particularly concerning "because a lot of these cancers have something called a tumour doubling time, which in some instances can be just a matter of weeks, so it's really, really important for radiation treatment … to be done in a really timely way," he said.

Health Minister Sharon Blady said the province is working to reduce the wait times, but she was a "little surprised" by the rankings.

"With CancerCare we've got the Cancer Patient Journey and the In 60 [program] and that really has made a difference," she said. "One of the best examples is the idea that 85 per cent of breast cancer patients who go through a CancerCare hub, now go through suspicion through to treatment in under 60 days."

Blady pointed to renewed promises to reduce waits in the throne speech but stopped short of providing any new commitments to reduce the wait times.

"I'm willing to learn from [the report] and see how we can apply some of the things that they've evaluated about strengths and weaknesses across the province," she said.
Manitoba Health Minister Sharon Blady said the province is working to reduce the wait times, but she was a “little surprised” by the rankings. (CBC)
 

Data for this year's report card was taken from provincial wait time websites in the spring and summer of 2015, when the median wait time for radiation for both types of cancer was two weeks, meaning half of patients were waiting less time than that and half were waiting more.

The Wait Times Alliance uses a benchmark of 14 days as the maximum amount of time people can safely wait.

"When they wait longer than that, the outcomes aren't going to be as good. It's literally a matter of life and death for many patients," said Simpson.

Prostate cancer wait times have since increased. In October, the province reported a median wait time of three weeks for prostate cancer radiation. 

Manitoba 'bravely' reporting stats, doc says

Simpson did praise the province for reporting the numbers at all. Only three provinces measured and reported wait times for breast and prostate cancer radiation last year.

"Most wait times in Canada that are important to many people aren't even measured and reported at all," he said. "Manitoba is bravely reporting these findings, and I think they deserve a lot of credit for that, because many provinces don't."

There are a number of areas the province doesn't report wait times for, such as waits to access a psychiatrist or pediatric surgery wait times. 

Blady said the province is looking at expanding its reporting.

"If there are places that we think we can publicly report and make that more accessible, that's the path that we're on," she said. "I think it does allow us to work on changes."

Ontario earned an A and an A+ for their wait times, meaning 80 and 90 per cent of patients were being seen within the medically derived benchmark, while Nova Scotia posted identical grades to Manitoba.

Manitoba has improved wait times for CT scans and for cardiac nuclear medicine.

Meanwhile, wait times for cataract surgery and MRI scans both increased.

Overall patient wait times higher than Canadian average

The Fraser Institute also released its report on 2014 wait times on Tuesday, saying wait times for medically necessary treatment haven't improved in the past year.

Overall, Manitoba had wait times slightly higher than the Canadian average.

In 2014, Manitobans waited an average of 19.4 weeks from the time they saw a general practitioner until they received treatment. The Canadian average last year was 18.3.

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