OTTAWA, June 11, 2013 /CNW/ - Canadians are waiting as long, if not longer, than previous years for medical care, the eighth report card issued by the Wait Time Alliance has concluded.
"Not only has there been no progress over the last year in wait times in any of the five priority areas, in many instances Canadians are waiting longer now than they were two years ago," said Dr. Chris Simpson, a Kingston, Ont., cardiologist who is chair of the WTA. "Progress has stalled."
The 2013 WTA report card, entitled "Time for transformation: Canadians still waiting too long for health care," (www.cma.ca/wait-times) gives Canadians a picture of how long they have to wait to access a broad range of medical procedures and services.
The grades pertain only to the length of time between the decision by a patient and their specialist to treat and the start of the treatment. The wait periods to see a family physician and to see the consulting specialist are not being reported and graded. However, taken together, these various wait periods can add up to very long waits for Canadian patients.
This year's report highlights the impact of the social determinants of health on wait times in Canada. Factors such as income, age, education or gender can and do affect access to care. "People with lower socio-economic status are often admitted to hospital for mental health concerns and for conditions that could have been managed at at the primary health care level on an outpatient basis," Dr. Simpson said.
The report found that some provinces seem to be making progress in addressing wait times. However, as noted in last year's WTA report card, significant variations in wait times can occur within provinces and regions.
The 2013 WTA Report Card provides examples of structural changes that are improving timely access to care. "Additional funding is not the sole solution to achieving shorter wait times," Dr. Simpson said. "The best route to sustained reductions in wait times is to look at how wait times are mitigated, measured, monitored and managed," said Dr. Simpson.
This year's report also reaffirms the 2011 finding that alternate levels of care (ALC) patients - that is, those who are in hospital but who would ideally be receiving care elsewhere - threaten to overwhelm the health care system. A significant number of hospital beds are occupied by patients waiting for alternate levels of care, such as rehabilitative care, home care or long-term care. The lack of availability of these types of care in turn restricts access for emergency department patients and patients scheduled for elective surgery.
"Since the number one risk factor for dementia is age, there is no question that with the aging of Canada's population, its prevalence will increase, "said Dr. Simpson. "Establishing a national dementia strategy is critical to addressing the rising tide of patients with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia-related conditions, many of whom end up in emergency departments and are subsequently admitted to hospital."
One positive development is that all provinces have websites reporting wait times and these sites continue to improve, especially in Saskatchewan, Quebec and Nova Scotia. However, the limited number of procedures reported on by provinces remains a problem.
"Canadians want more timely access to health care and deserve more accurate information about the waits they can expect," Dr. Simpson said. "Canadians are entitled to the best health care system in the world. To achieve that, we must together find ways to transform this cherished social program."
The Wait Time Alliance (WTA) is a partnership comprised of the Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, the Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine, the Canadian Association of Paediatric Surgeons, the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology, the Canadian Association of Radiologists, the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
SOURCE: Wait Time Alliance
For further information:
Lucie Boileau, Canadian Medical Association
Tel.: 613-731-8610 / 800-663-7336 ext. 1266