Health and Community Services
December 21, 2006
Minister Provides Quarterly Update on Wait Times for Health Care Procedures
Through strategic investments and continuous monitoring of wait times, Newfoundland and Labrador continues to be near or at the national benchmark in wait times for most health care procedures.
"We are working to ensure that patients do not have to wait longer than is necessary for medical procedures," said the Honourable Tom Osborne, Minister of Health and Community Services. "We have invested $28.6 million in the past two budgets to reduce wait times for select health services, purchase new equipment to increase capacity, and support a new wait time management team."
The wait times data reflects the first quarter period of the 2006-07 fiscal year which runs from April to June. Government committed to reporting regularly on these five pan-Canadian benchmarks as set out by first ministers in the 10 Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care. The five areas include curative radiotherapy, coronary bypass surgery, sight restoration, hip and knee repair and diagnostic services.
Minister Osborne added, "We continue to be accountable to the people of our province by fulfilling our commitment to report regularly on our progress towards the benchmarks set out by Canada�s health ministers."
There was a slight increase in wait times for curative radiotherapy, as a result of downtime for the radiation machines housed in the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre, due to repairs and maintenance following an unexpected increase in demand for radiation treatment. To address this issue, government invested $3.3 million in Budget 2006 to begin construction on new bunkers to house two new radiation machines at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre in St. John�s with a further investment to follow in next year�s budget to purchase the equipment, which is expected to be operational in late 2007.
Wait times for coronary bypass surgery remain fairly consistent, standing at 95.2 per cent of all cases completed in 182 days during this quarter.
There was a slight improvement in cataract procedures, with Eastern Health reporting 85 per cent, as compared to 83.7 per cent in the last quarter. Central Health exceeded the 112 day benchmark. Data is not available from Western region at this time. Due to low patient numbers in this area, the statistics for Labrador-Grenfell Health were not significant enough to report for this quarter. Eastern region performs the highest number of joint replacement and cataract procedures in the province each year.
Central Health, Western Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health reported 100 per cent of hip replacements completed within 182 days, while Eastern Health reported 88 per cent. Wait times for knee replacements have decreased in all regions, with the exception of Central Health, which remained the same for this quarter, reporting 100 per cent of procedures completed within the benchmark. Eastern Health reported 91 per cent, up from 78.5 per cent in the last quarter. Western Health reported 94 per cent, up from 85.2 per cent in the last quarter and Labrador-Grenfell Health reported 67 per cent, up from the 50 per cent reported in the last quarter.
For breast screening, approximately 26,000 procedures were performed in the province�s three screening centres on women between 50 and 69 years of age. Government invested $750,000 in Budget 2006 for 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.
While data on cervical screening is only reported on an annual basis at this time, it is estimated that between 35 to 45 per cent of women in the province get an annual pap test, with a strong uptake for woman in the 25-34 year age bracket. Government invested $1.5 million in Budget 2006 to implement the Cervical Screening Initiatives Program into the Labrador-Grenfell region and expand the program in the rural areas of Eastern region. This investment will result in full implementation of the program in all areas of Newfoundland and Labrador. This investment also included a technology upgrade for cervical screening to use Liquid Based Cytology (LBC).
Minister Osborne said, "Government is committed to providing timely and accessible health care services for the residents of our province in cooperation with our regional health authorities."
Benchmarks are goals which will fluctuate as they are impacted by many variables, including the number of procedures requested and seasonal variables (for example when patients choose to not to have elective surgery during the summer vacation months).
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 by informing their health care provider in advance 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.
In addition to the five national benchmarks, government anticipates reporting CT Scans and MRI wait times by the end of this fiscal year. The next update will be released in March 2007.
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2006 12 21 1:45 p.m.
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