Health and Community Services
July 12, 2007

Newfoundland and Labrador Continues to Improve Wait Times

Newfoundland and Labrador continues to demonstrate improvements in wait times for the five priority areas of curative radiotherapy, coronary bypass surgery, cataract surgery, hip and knee repair and diagnostics. The Honourable Ross Wiseman, Minister of Health and Community Services, today provided an update on wait times for the third quarter of last year representing the period from October 1, 2006, to December 31, 2006.

"The significant investments our government has made to improve wait times over the last three and a half years are clearly paying off as we continue to be at or near the national benchmarks," said Minister Wiseman. "Ultimately this means that residents in our province are experiencing improved access to health procedures and services."

For curative radiation therapy, 88 per cent of new patients commenced curative treatment within 30 days. This is consistent with the previous second quarter performance at 89 per cent. In keeping with the Provincial Government�s commitment to provide timely access to cancer treatment, 59 patients traveled to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto to commence radiation treatment for breast or prostate cancer during this quarter. The construction of the radiation bunkers at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre is underway with an additional $5.9 million investment in Budget 2007 for the purchase of the two radiation treatment machines, which are expected to be operational in early 2008.

As the only regional health authority performing coronary bypass surgery in the province, Eastern Health has consistently remained near the benchmark of 182 days for the last three quarters. In the third quarter, 92 per cent of patients received surgery within the benchmark which is down slightly from 98 per cent in the previous quarter.

Access to cataract surgery has continued to improve, with Eastern Health reporting an 89.5 per cent completion rate this quarter, up from 88 per cent in the previous quarter. Central Health reached the benchmark at 100 per cent in Gander and surpassed the 112-day benchmark again this quarter in Grand Falls-Windsor, treating 100 per cent of cases within 60 days. Western Health will begin reporting wait times for this procedure in the next quarter. Labrador-Grenfell Health, which relies entirely on visiting ophthalmologists, reported that 26 cataract procedures were performed during this quarter, at a 19.2 per cent completion rate within the 112-day benchmark.

The national benchmark for hip replacement is 182 days (26 weeks). Again during this quarter, Central Health and Western Health achieved the benchmark target. Eastern Health reported a 77.6 per cent completion rate as compared to 83 per cent last quarter; however, the number of cases performed is up by 32.4 per cent this quarter. As there were less than 10 cases performed by Labrador-Grenfell Health, data is suppressed and completion rates will not be reported this quarter.

The national benchmark for knee replacement is 182 days (26 weeks). Western Health reached the benchmark with a 100 per cent completion rate for knee replacement cases in 182 days, as compared to 87.5 per cent in the previous quarter. The completion rate was 86.1 per cent for Eastern Health, up slightly from 82.5 per cent last quarter. Central Health completed 87.5 per cent within the benchmark, as compared to 100 per cent last quarter. Labrador-Grenfell Health data is not reported for this benchmark, as there were less than 10 cases performed.

The percentage of hip fracture surgeries performed within the 48 hours benchmark is reported for the first time this quarter, as the province required time to define the appropriate start and stop measures for this benchmark, through consultation with the provincial wait time management team and a select group of orthopaedic surgeons. The percentage of hip fracture cases completed with the 48-hour benchmark ranged from 93.8 per cent for Western Health to 93.3 per cent for Central Health and 69.1 per cent for Eastern Health during this quarter. Data from Labrador-Grenfell region is not reported, as less than 10 cases were performed this quarter.

While the administrative data for cervical screening is not yet available, participation rates for organized breast screening centres are being reported for the first time this quarter. The national benchmark for breast screening established in December 2005 is for women aged 50-69 to have a screening mammogram every two years. In Canada, the national guidelines for the monitoring of breast screening program performance recommends that breast screening programs in Canada aim for 70 per cent or greater of the eligible population (ages 50-69) to participate in biennial screening.

The Provincial Breast Screening Program promotes early detection of breast cancer by providing breast screening services to women 50-69 years old with no symptoms of breast cancer. Services include clinical breast exam, mammography and information on breast health awareness, in addition to public and professional education.  The program serves women of the Avalon Peninsula, and the Central and Western regions.

Between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2006, the percentage of women aged 50-69 who had a biennial screening mammogram performed at one of the province�s three breast screening centres was 51.3 per cent in Eastern Health, 74.5 per cent in Central Health and 49.1 per cent in Western Health (based on 20 months of operation, as this is a new centre). Additionally, throughout the province, many women (age 50-69) are referred by their family doctor to their local health care centre for mammography services each year.

"Early detection through screening is key to preventing breast and cervical cancer among residents of our province," said Minister Wiseman. "Last year we dedicated $15.5 million to the prevention and treatment of cancer which includes a significant focus on screening. It is important that women in our province recognize the importance of having a pap test annually and, when required by age or family history, a mammogram."

Wait time starts with the decision to treat, which is when the patient and the appropriate physician agree to a particular service, and the patient is ready to receive the service. The wait time ends when the patient received the service or the initial service in a series.

Newfoundland and Labrador has made substantial progress in wait times. The province received an "A" grade by the Wait Time Alliance for Timely Access to Health Care. That progress report released on April 19 assesses the progress of provincial and territorial governments in achieving wait times benchmarks within the five priority areas. Additionally, on March 27, the Provincial Government announced that it would establish a patient wait time guarantee for adult cardiac surgery by March 2010.

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Media contact:

Tansy Mundon
Director of Communications
Department of Health and Community Services
709-729-1377, 685-1741



Service Area Pan-Canadian benchmarks Newfoundland and Labrador Wait Times- Third Quarter (October - December, 2006)
Curative Radiotherapy Within 4 weeks (28 days) of being ready to treat.
  • 88% in 30 days
Coronary Bypass

Surgery (CABG)




  • 92% of CABG cases completed in 182 days.
Level 1 Within 2 weeks (14 days)
Level 2 Within 6 weeks (42 days)
Level 3 Within 26 weeks (182 days)
Cataract Within 16 weeks (112 days) for patients who are at high risk.
  • Eastern Health: 89.5%
  • Central Health (Gander): 100% in 112 days
  • Central Health (GFW): 100% in 60 days
  • Western Health: Data not available. Information will be available as of the fourth quarter.
  • Labrador-Grenfell Health: 19.2%
Hip Replacement Within 26 weeks (182 days)
  • Eastern Health: 77.6%
  • Central Health: 100%
  • Western Health: 100%
  • Labrador-Grenfell Health: Data is suppressed because there were fewer than 10 cases performed during this quarter.
Knee Replacement Within 26 weeks (182 days)
  • Eastern Health: 86.1%
  • Central Health: 87.5%
  • Western Health: 100%
  • Labrador-Grenfell Health: Data is suppressed because there were fewer than 10 cases performed during this quarter.
Hip Fracture Repair Fixation within 48 hours
  • Eastern Health: 69.1%
  • Central Health: 93.3%
  • Western Health: 93.8%
  • Labrador-Grenfell Health: Data is suppressed because there were fewer than 10 cases performed during this quarter
Breast Screening Women aged 50-69 every two years Data from 24 month period:
  • Eastern Health: 51.3%
  • Central Health: 74.5%

Data from 20 month period:

  • Western Health: 49.1%
Cervical Screening Women, starting at age 18, every three years to age 69 after two normal pap tests.
  • Administrative data is not available at this time.

2007 07 12                                                         12:15 p.m.


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