Canada's Wait Times Exceed Benchmarks
From Canada's Wait Time Alliance for Timely Access to Health Care's 2009 annual report "Unfinished Business: Report Card on Wait Times in Canada":
Five years ago the governments of Canada resolved to improve wait times for health care by committing nearly $6 billion to the cause. Although there are signs of improvement, the lack of uniform and timely information on wait times is just one symptom of the ‘unfinished business’relating to wait times in Canada. What’s going on?
■ Based on the UK's National Health Service target of 18-weeks from initial referral by a family physician to start of treatment, a majority of Canadian patients had wait times that exceeded the 18-week target. Access is particularly poor for: ophthalmology (adult strabismus), obstetrics and gynecology, gastroenterology, plastic surgery and orthopedics.
■ The median wait for radical (curative) cancer care was 46 days or nearly 7 weeks and the majority of these treatments exceeded the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology benchmark for curative cancer treatment of 4 weeks (2 weeks for the consult wait and 2 weeks for treatment). This is troublesome given the clear link between a delay in radiation therapy and a chance of cure.
■ The study found that the median wait time from the time the patient presented at the Emergency Department to the time the patient was discharged (i.e., the patient did not need to be admitted to an inpatient bed) was almost 6 hours, while the average wait was nearly 9 hours, both much longer than the benchmark of 4 hours.
Moreover, the median wait time for patients requiring an inpatient bed-that is, from the time the patient presented at the ED to the time they were admitted to an inpatient bed-was
19 hours (average is 23.5 hours or nearly one full day), which is substantially higher than the established thresholds (e.g., more than three times the 6 hour guideline for high-level acuity patients). The longer wait for patients to be admitted is often due to the inability to find an available hospital inpatient bed.