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April 18, 2006
(Health and Community Services)

Improving wait times for health services  

The Williams government is investing a further $717,500 in Budget 2006 to improve wait times in the province, said Health and Community Services Minister Tom Osborne.  As a result of investments in last year�s budget, government has seen slight improvements in wait times in the third quarter ending December 31, 2005 , as compared to the second quarter.  Newfoundland and Labrador is at or near the national wait time benchmark for almost all of the five priority areas.  

Approximately $500,000 in Budget 2006 will support a new wait time management team, comprised of new positions in each of the four regional integrated health authorities, to effectively manage wait times in the province.  An additional $217,500 will be invested to hire two additional cardiac perfusionists.  The perfusionist is the member of the cardiac surgery team who is responsible for the operation of the heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery.  These positions are expected to help in addressing wait times and also with recruitment and retention to ensure that there are sufficient resources available at all times to meet the surgery demands.  

�I am pleased to say that we have made slight improvements in wait times for the five priority areas agreed on by the First Ministers� Accord,� said Minister Osborne.  �Since our announcement in December 2005, we have seen reduced wait times in some areas which ultimately means improved access to health care services for the residents of our province.�  

Since the December 2005 update on wait times, the province has seen a reduction in wait times for curative radiotherapy, cardiac procedures, cataract and knee replacements, with a slight increase in the wait time for hip replacements.  While indicators for cervical screening and mammography are measured annually, government has invested significantly in Budget 2006 to strengthen cancer screening and prevention.  (See attached table.)  

�Early detection is the key to survival for both breast and cervical cancer and government is committed to improving access to, and promotion of, cancer screening services,� said Minister Osborne.  �In Budget 2006, we invested $1.5 million to strengthen resources in preventing cancer and expand the Cervical Screening Program into the Eastern and Labrador-Grenfell regions. Through increased public education, the program will aim to increase cervical screening rates this year. Additionally, we invested $750,000 towards a new breast screening centre in Grand Falls-Windsor and to expand the existing breast screening centre in St. John�s along with program enhancements for breast and other cancers.�  

Minister Osborne added that, while wait times are improving, they will tend to fluctuate over time and we may see variations in each reporting period, depending on the number of new cases and the time of year they are reported.  

�Within the province, we are developing wait list management strategies and monitoring wait times in partnership with regional health authorities and health care professionals,� said Minister Osborne.  �We will continue to report our progress on wait times provincially on a regular basis.�  

One of the commitments of the 2004 First Ministers� (FMM) Health Accord signed in September 2004 by Premier Williams and all other first ministers was to improve access to health services in priority areas such as cancer, heart, diagnostics, joint replacements and sight restoration.  The first set of pan-Canadian benchmarks, released in December 2005, 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.  

Media contact:  Tansy Mundon, Communications, (709) 729-1377, 685-1741  


Service Area

Pan-Canadian Benchmarks announced December 12, 2005

Newfoundland and Labrador Wait Times 
3rd Quarter, 2005

(current as of
December 31, 2005 )

Curative Radiotherapy

Within 4 weeks (28 days) of being ready to treat.


100% of all new cases of breast, colorectal, lung, prostate and other cancers commenced treatment in 30 days, as compared to 84% in the second quarter.

Cardiac (Coronary bypass surgery)
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3

Within 2 weeks (14 days)
Within 6 weeks (42 days)
Within 26 weeks (182 days)

96.7% of all coronary artery bypass surgery cases completed in 182 days, as compared to 87% in the second quarter. 
Data has not been collected according to these new national urgency levels.

Sight Restoration

Within 16 weeks (112 days) for patients who are at high risk.




Provincial range is from 74.6% in Eastern Health region to 98% in Central Health region of all cases completed in 112 days.  
This compares to a provincial range of from 54.3% in Eastern Health region to 96% in Central Health region of all cases completed in 90 days in the second quarter. 
(Note information was not available in the second quarter based on the 112 day benchmark)

Data has not been collected according to risk category.

Hips & Knees

Fixation within 48 hours  

The national definition for this indicator is being finalized and we will report on this later this year.

Hip Fracture

Hip Replacement


Within 26 weeks (182 days)

Provincial range is from 87.5% in Eastern Health region to 94% in Central Health region of all cases completed in 182 days.  This compares to provincial range of 92% in Western Health region to 100% in Central Health region of all cases completed in 182 days in the second quarter.

Knee Replacement

Within 26 weeks (182 days)


Provincial range is from 88.2% in Eastern Health region to 100% in Central Health region of all cases completed in 182 days, as compared to a range of 70% in Eastern Health region to 100% in Central Health region of all cases completed in 182 days in the second quarter.

Diaagnostic Services

Women aged 50-69 every two years.


We will report on this benchmark annually, likely in September each year, once consolidated information becomes available.
The second quarter report indicated that approximately 20,900 women aged 50-69 years had at least one mammogram procedure in the previous two years at one of the provincial breast screening centers.  Additionally, thousands of mammograms for screening purposes are performed in hospitals each year.  


Cervical Screening

Women, starting at age 18, every three years to age 69 after two normal pap tests.


We will report on this benchmark annually, likely in September each year depending on availability of year �end data.
The second quarter report outlined that, in 2003, the province launched the Provincial Cervical Screening Initiatives Program with a staged implementation strategy.  Currently, provincial guidelines recommend annual cervical screening.  In 2004, 43% of women aged 18-69 years in NL had a pap test (
ranging from 43% in Eastern Health region to 37% in Central Health region).

 2006 04 18                                                        10:20 a.m.

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