Quebec health minister defends cancer surgery wait times
Waits are longer in Montreal than elsewhere in the province
Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette was quick to defend the province's record when it comes to wait times in Montreal hospitals for cancer surgeries.
The wait times at Montreal hospitals are the worst in Quebec, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
Nearly half of Montreal cancer patients wait more than four weeks for surgery.
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The government has said that 90 per cent of cancer patients scheduled for operations should have their surgery within 28 days. On Monday, Barette said the actual acceptable wait time is a lot longer — at about two months.
"The 28 days is a goal," Barrette said. "It's not a rule."
He added that while the province tries to ensure hospitals meet the 28-day target, it knows "that this will not be possible."
Pierre Hurteau of the MUHC's patients committee said cancer patients can't afford any delays.
"If you wait longer than you should, it creates more stress, and it has dire consequences on your health and the evolution of the disease," Hurteau said.
'It's not surprising'
Montreal is a special case, according to Barrette.
Surgical wait times in general can fluctuate due to personal and medical reasons, but in Montreal, the region accommodates more patients and takes on the most difficult cases when it comes to cancer.
"It's not surprising to see that the gap is more concentrated in the Montreal area given the fact that we have the more complex cases in the Montreal area because we have university hospitals," Barrette said.
Only one of the 19 Montreal hospitals on the island managed to meet the target of providing surgery to 90 per cent of cancer patients within 28 days.
Wait times vary by area
In Montreal, only half of cancer patients underwent surgery within 28 days.
In comparison, about 93 per cent of patients in Abitibi-Témiscamingue have their surgeries performed within one month. In Laval, just north of Montreal, three out of four cancer patients get into the operating room in a timely fashion.
Barrette said the government is working on lowering wait times.
"What we are doing is to increase our surgical capacities so we can reduce the wait time within the same budget," Barrette said, adding that recent budget cuts did not affect hospital services.
With files from Antoni Nerestant and Natalie Nanowski