Comparisons now available provincially, regionally and internationally

April 14, 2015—While the number of priority procedures performed in Canada has increased, wait times for these procedures—radiation therapy, joint replacement, hip fracture repair and cataract surgery—have remained stable.

In fact, about 8 out of 10 patients have consistently had their priority surgery performed within the approved benchmark time frame every year since 2010.

This information is included in Wait Times for Priority Procedures in Canada, 2015, released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

“Timely access to care is an important issue to Canadians, so reducing wait times while ensuring quality of care has been one of governments’ most important commitments regarding the health system over the past 10 years. Our data shows where progress has been made—most Canadians are now getting their priority surgeries done within prescribed benchmarks—but it also shows where we still have room for improvement.”

– David O’Toole, CIHI’s president and CEO

In 2014, 98% of radiation therapy was administered within the 28-day benchmark. The percentage of cancer patients receiving radiation therapy has not changed since 2010, even though 34% more radiation treatments were performed last year than in 2010.

The percentage of hip fractures repaired within benchmark rose to 84%—a 6 percentage point improvement from 4 years ago. This was the only type of surgery for which a substantial change was reported compared with 2010.

Furthermore, 83% of hip replacement surgeries were performed within benchmark. Knee replacement surgeries were performed within the benchmarked time frame 79% of the time and cataract surgery patients received their procedure within benchmark 80% of the time. In all cases, the number of surgeries performed increased between 2010 and 2014.

Regional variation within provinces for joint replacement surgeries

While the report focuses on results at a provincial level, new regional-level wait times are available for hip and knee replacement surgery. New data shows that there is a large variation in proportion of patients receiving care within benchmarks for hip and knee replacements across provinces.

At the regional level, there does not appear to be a relationship between the size of the population in a region and how long patients waited for care.

Within larger provinces, the proportion of surgeries completed within benchmark also varies among more populated regions. For example, in the 6 Ontario local health integration networks that service the Toronto area, there is considerable variation in patients receiving care within benchmark time frames: 54% to 98% for hip replacements and 50% to 96% for knee replacements.

An international perspective

Using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), we can see how wait times in Canada compare with those in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Portugal, Finland, Australia and Estonia.

Wait times in Canada for cataract surgery, hip replacement and knee replacement were among the shortest, with Canada having the shortest wait time for cataract surgery among the OECD countries.