Approximately 30% of patients who required a hip or knee replacement or cataract surgery did not have their procedure done within the recommended wait times in 2018, according to new data released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Meanwhile, most Canadians continued to receive timely access to more urgent procedures, with 88% of Canadians receiving a hip fracture repair and 97% of Canadians receiving radiation therapy within the recommended wait times.

“Differences in wait times across the country are a reflection of multiple factors, including how care delivery is structured, how a patient’s wait time is measured and — most importantly, in hip and knee replacements — whether provinces are able to provide adequate resources to meet the demand for these types of surgeries.” — Dr. Eric Bohm, Orthopedic Surgeon and Canadian Joint Replacement Registry Advisory Committee Chair

Wait times for hip replacement, knee replacement and cataract surgeries continue to vary depending on where patients live. In most provinces, they are not improving. For example, the percentage of people receiving knee replacement surgery within the recommended wait time of 6 months improved by at least 5% since 2016 in only 3 provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and British Columbia) while the percentage in Canada’s remaining provinces either decreased or remained stable. 

“Reducing wait times is a complex challenge and we see from the data that increasing the number of surgeries performed won’t necessarily mean patients will experience shorter wait times. For example, Canada’s growing and aging population, as well as increases in conditions such as osteoarthritis and obesity, have contributed to a growing demand for these joint replacement procedures.” — Kathleen Morris, Vice President, Research and Analysis, CIHI

Data on trends from 2014 to 2018 is available in CIHI’s online Wait Times tool, organized by province and procedure. Wait time data from 2008 onward is also available for download.  

About CIHI

CIHI is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health systems and the health of Canadians.

We provide comparable and actionable data and information that are used to accelerate improvements in health care, health system performance and population health across Canada. Our stakeholders use our broad range of health system databases, measurements and standards, together with our evidence-based reports and analyses, in their decision-making processes. We protect the privacy of Canadians by ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of the health care information we provide.

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Corinne Ton That