August 22, 2006
(Health and Community Services)
Update on wait times for health care procedures
Health and Community Services Minister Tom Osborne today provided an update on wait times for health care procedures in the province. Since the last quarter report, wait times have generally improved in three regions of the province, with Labrador-Grenfell region reporting wait times data for the first time this past quarter.
"Our significant investment of over $23 million in Budget 2005 to purchase new diagnostic equipment and expand select services has resulted in improved access for patients in our province," said Minister Osborne. "We are now seeing how these investments, along with the hiring of wait times coordinators in all health regions, have improved wait times for diagnostic procedures. Government is committed to ensuring that our residents receive timely access to health care procedures."
The province continues to meet the pan-Canadian benchmark for curative radiotherapy, with 100 per cent of all new cases of breast, colorectal, lung, prostate and other cancers having commenced treatment in 30 days. There has been a slight improvement in wait times for cardiac (coronary bypass surgery), with 98.6 per cent of all cases completed in 182 days, up from 96.7 per cent in the last quarter. A total of 599 procedures were completed province-wide.
This is the first time that Labrador-Grenfell Health has reported wait time data and, compared to other health regions in the province, the number of procedures are low. While the wait time for cataract procedures is longer than other health regions, the region does not have a full time ophthalmologist and is dependent on a visiting service. A total of five cataract procedures were performed in Labrador-Grenfell region in the last quarter, compared to 3,139 procedures province-wide.
Wait times have improved for hip replacement procedures. The provincial range was from 90 per cent in Eastern Health to 100 per cent in Central Health, Western Health and Labrador-Grenfell Heath of all cases completed in 182 days. A total of 335 procedures were performed in the province in the last quarter report.
In the last quarter report, the provincial range for knee replacement procedures was from 50 per cent in Labrador-Grenfell, 78.5 per cent in Eastern Health, to 85.2 per cent in Western Health and 100 per cent in Central Health of all cases completed in 182 days. A total of 470 cases were performed in the province in the last quarter. The wait times are lower for this procedure as compared to the previous report.
In addition to the five national benchmarks, government anticipates reporting CT Scans and MRI wait times by the end of this fiscal year. Regional health authorities are in the process of establishing Diagnostic Imaging Wait Time Committees which will begin the standardization process. Since commencing operation in March 2005, the second MRI in the west coast of the province has performed over 2,000 patient scans. Wait times for MRI in the Western health region have improved from a 98.9 per cent completion rate in 182 days in the second quarter to a 100 per cent completion rate in 90 days in the fourth quarter. In Eastern Health region, the third MRI in the province began operation in May. This new MRI is expected to provide an additional 2,500 exams per year.
"Wait times in the benchmark areas are continuing to improve. This is good news for the people of our province," said Minister Osborne. "The reductions in wait times we are seeing in the last quarter are a reflection of the combined efforts of government in partnership with the regional health authorities, physicians, and health professionals. We are committed to improving wait times and providing timely access to services for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."
Benchmarks are goals which will fluctuate as they will be impacted by many variables, including the number of procedures requested, seasonal variables for example when patients choose to not to have elective surgery during the summer vacation months.
In keeping with the priorities outlined in the 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care, much of the recent reporting has focused on measuring wait times for the benchmark priority areas. Government is committed to informing the people of our province the provincial position/standings in relation to the benchmarks. In the areas where the province is below the national benchmark, regional health authorities will work to develop solutions to improve wait times.
Timely access to service is also impacted by the number and frequency of patients who do not show for a prescheduled appointment. The public can play an important role in ensuring that they provide advance notice, and inform their health care provider if they are unable to make their appointment. With sufficient advance notice of a cancellation, health care organizations/providers will be able to book another person into this time slot and also reschedule the individual who has had to cancel their appointment.
Media contact: Tansy Mundon, Communications, (709) 729-1377, 685-1741 or email@example.com
2006 08 22 9:45 a.m.
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