April 23, 2009—Since 2005, four out of the five provinces where trends can be monitored have shown improvements in wait times for hip replacement surgery (Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia), and another three of four (Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta) show decreasing wait times for cataract surgery, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Wait Times Tables—A Comparison by Province marks the first time more comparable information is available on how provinces are meeting benchmarks for medically acceptable waits in priority areas, as determined by Canada’s health ministers in 2005.
“While we still need to be cautious about making direct comparisons between the provinces, we are pleased to be able to look at the progress made in reducing wait times across the country,” says Helen Angus, Vice President of Research and Analysis at CIHI. “Since the agreement was signed in 2005, provinces have been working to make their efforts around wait time reductions more transparent, improving the scope of data to enhance comparability, resulting in a more complete picture of wait times across the priority areas.”
On December 12, 2005, Canada’s health ministers announced wait time benchmarks that were established based on clinical evidence, for five types of non-emergency surgery, radiation therapy and cancer screening. These benchmarks apply to the period between booking (defined as when the patient and an appropriate physician agree to a service and the patient is ready to receive it) and when the service starts.
The analysis shows all 10 provinces report against Canadian benchmarks for hip and knee replacements. While many (75%) patients received a hip replacement within the 26-week benchmark in Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C., waits for knee replacements appear to be longer. Only three provinces (Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario) report that over 75% of knee replacement patients received their surgery within the recommended 26 weeks.
In the case of cataract surgery, in five reporting provinces (Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C.) 75% of patients are meeting the 16-week benchmark.
CIHI’s report also found that most patients (90% to 100%) receive coronary bypass surgery within 26 weeks, excluding emergency cases. Benchmarks for bypass surgery vary from 2 to 26 weeks, depending on the severity of the patient’s case. Comparative data are not yet available to determine if recommended waits are being met by priority level.
Since 2004, both the number of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) scanners and the number of exams performed in Canada have increased, by 30% and 35%, respectively. Based on limited available data, this has not always translated into reduced waits, however. Only five provinces report diagnostic imaging waits, fewer than are reporting in other priority areas. At this time, no pan-Canadian benchmark exists for medical imaging, though Alberta, Ontario and Prince Edward Island have developed their own targets for MRI and CT waits.
“CIHI will continue to monitor wait times reporting and trend information as part of our commitment to measuring access to care,” says Tracy Johnson, Manager of Wait Times Projects with CIHI. “With comparable information, the provinces can work together to determine the most effective strategies to improve patient care.”
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly available. Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments created CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI’s goal: to provide timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI’s data and reports inform health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health.
416-481-2002 ext. 5251
613-241-7860 ext. 6331