December 21, 2005
(Health and Community Services)
NL on track to meet national wait time benchmarks
Health and Community Services Minister John Ottenheimer today provided an update on government’s continued efforts to improve access to heath care services in the province. The minister was joined by Susan Gillam, CEO for Western Health; George Tilley, CEO for Eastern Health; and Dr. Robert Williams, VP – Quality, Diagnostic and Medical Services, Eastern Health, where he outlined the province’s current wait times in relation to the pan-Canadian benchmarks announced December 12, 2005.
"Our government is making significant progress in reducing wait times for health care services and we welcome the recently announced national benchmarks as a significant step forward for residents of Newfoundland and Labrador," said Minister Ottenheimer. "All provinces/territories have committed to achieve meaningful reductions in priority areas by 2007. That being said, Newfoundland and Labrador is already at or near the national benchmarks in many areas and I am confident that all partners will work collaboratively to achieve these benchmarks sooner."
In keeping with government’s commitment to openness and transparency, the department will report, on a quarterly basis, on wait time progress, beginning in February 2006.
This first set of pan-Canadian benchmarks is based on available research and clinical evidence. They do not apply to emergency procedures as patients requiring emergency care will continue to be treated on a priority basis. Additional benchmarks will be developed as further research is undertaken and new clinical evidence is produced. A wait time begins with the booking of a service, when the patient and the appropriate physician agree to a service and the patient is ready to receive it. Benchmarks are not ‘care guarantees’ or legal obligations to individual patients.
Minister Ottenheimer said while benchmarks will allow patients to monitor the province’s progress, other changes are needed to enhance how wait times are measured, monitored and managed. Currently there is no provincial centralized wait list since all regions manage wait times in different ways. The minister acknowledged that physicians, other health professionals, managers and policy makers are all working together to reduce wait times.
The department recently hired a provincial wait times coordinator and is completing baseline assessment of wait times in the province. Government is working in partnership with health authorities and health care professionals in identifying challenges that exist in the health care system and working toward addressing them. Through further collaboration and investment, along with increased health promotion, government will continue to advance its vision for a reformed health care system.
Minister Ottenheimer added: "Patients can also play an active role in helping to reduce wait times by becoming informed about their options, talking to their health care providers about changes that can affect the timing of their treatments, and by living an active and healthy lifestyle to prevent the need for care."
Government invested an additional $113 million in health care funding in Budget 2005, bringing the total provincial investment in healthcare to $1.75 billion, representing a seven per cent increase over last year’s budget. $23.2 million was invested to improve access to key services. Through the purchase of equipment, modernization of diagnostic and medical equipment and the expansion of select services in all of the province’s major health care centres, government has added capacity for 43,344 MRI, CT, cardiac and other key diagnostic procedures, surgeries, as well as cancer treatments.
In September 2004, first ministers committed to establish evidence-based benchmarks for medically acceptable wait times in priority areas including cancer, heart, diagnostic imaging, joint replacements, and sight restoration by December 31, 2005. Provinces and territories announced 10 common benchmarks within the five priority areas on December 12, 2005. All provinces and territories are committed to achieving these benchmarks by March 31, 2007.
Media contact: Tansy Mundon, Communications, (709) 729-1377, 685-1741
(As distributed at the Provincial/Territorial announcement on December 12, 2005)
Provinces and Territories Establish Wait Time Benchmarks
Substantial progress is being made to improve access to health care across Canada. Canadians now have more information than ever before about wait times in their communities and today governments are establishing a first set of evidence-based benchmarks for selected health services.
Provinces and territories are committed to establishing benchmarks for diagnostic imaging, such as MRI and CT scans, but there is not yet enough clinical evidence currently available. To fill this gap, provinces and territories are seeking advice from some of Canada’s leading experts. While new evidence is being produced, each jurisdiction can set its own access targets, including some for MRI and CT scans. Benchmarks for breast and cervical screening are also being established because of the important contribution they make to detecting cancer and keeping people healthy.
Commitments in the 10-Year Plan
As described in the agreement entitled "Asymmetrical federalism that respects Quebec’s jurisdiction," which accompanies the 10-year plan, Quebec applies its own wait time reduction plan in accordance with the objectives, standards and criteria established by the relevant Quebec authorities.
What is a benchmark?
The benchmark for cataract surgery does not apply to all patients – only those individuals who are at high risk. For example, cataracts may be impairing the ability to treat other eye diseases or significantly impairing the ability to function without assistance.
As each province and territory works towards the common benchmarks for cardiac bypass surgery and cataract surgery, they will refine criteria for the various urgency levels to reflect their own situations.
In all cases, emergency patients will continue to be seen as soon as possible.
What is a target?
What is a wait time?
A wait time begins with the booking of a service, when the patient and the appropriate physician agree to a service and the patient is ready to receive it. The appropriate physician is one with the authority to determine the needed service. A wait time ends with the commencement of the service.
Using benchmarks along with other steps to
Provinces and territories are working to meet these benchmarks by:
Illnesses covered by the benchmarks
What is a comparable indicator?
Provinces and territories are establishing comparable indicators, along with the Canadian Institute for Health Information, to track how well they are improving access to care. The focus is on the health services that now have common benchmarks, such as cardiac bypass surgery, radiation therapy for cancer, and cataract surgery.
Using these indicators, each province and territory will be able to report on access to selected health services. For example, each jurisdiction will be able to identify wait times for hip and knee replacements, and the public will be able to compare results across Canada.
What does this work mean for patients?
What can patients do?
2005 12 21 11:30 a.m.