Wait Time Alliance (WTA) Report Card on Provincial Benchmarks: An Easy "A" for Cardiac Bypass Surgery; an "F" For Failing to Address the "Big Picture" in Cardiac Care

    OTTAWA, April 19 /CNW Telbec/ - While the Canadian Cardiovascular Society
(CCS) gives provincial governments an "A" for meeting or exceeding the
benchmark for access to cardiac bypass surgery (CABG), it thinks that an "F"
is a fair grade for governments" failure to look at the "big picture" of
cardiac care that is provided to patients.
    Dr. Blair O'Neill, Chair of the CCS Access to Care Working Group said,
"Adopting a benchmark for CABG is a good start. But the First Ministers
originally promised to address cardiac care, so the CCS developed
patient-centred benchmarks for cardiac care - which encompass a broad range of
services and procedures. This included benchmarks for referral to a specialist
upon a patient's first symptoms, right through to completion of rehabilitation
and return to a healthy and productive life. Yet, by choosing a surgical
procedure such as CABG, which is performed on only a limited population and is
no longer as common as procedures such as angioplasty, governments are not
making a meaningful and positive impact on wait times for Canadians - one in 3
of whom will die from heart disease. CABG is important but only one narrow
aspect of cardiac care."
    "Also," added Dr. Chris Simpson, Co-Chair of the Working Group, "access
to CABG was already an "A" before the First Ministers adopted the benchmark,
so the bar was set pretty low to begin with. What we'd like to see is the full
spectrum of cardiac care benchmarks adopted by all provinces, and as part of
the pan-Canadian Heart Health Strategy that is currently under development."
    The CCS looks forward to contributing to further dialogue on wait time
strategies for the cardiovascular health care of all Canadians. Please go to
www.ccs.ca for a copy of the CCS's benchmarks and a commentary on wait times.
Backgrounder attached.

    The CCS is the national voice for approximately 1600 cardiovascular
physicians and scientists. The CCS mission is to promote cardiovascular health
and care through knowledge translation (including dissemination of research
and encouragement of best practices); professional development; and leadership
in health policy.


    The Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS) is a member of the Wait Time
Alliance (WTA). The WTA was formed in 2005 by the Canadian Medical
Association, in response to the First Ministers' commitment to develop
benchmarks for medically-accepted wait times in 5 priority areas, including
cardiac care. Please see: www.cma.ca for more details about the WTA.

    CCS Benchmarks for Access to Cardiovascular Care

    The CCS has developed a comprehensive range of patient-centred and
evidence-based benchmarks. These benchmarks are published in the CCS report,
Universal Access, but When? Treating the Right Patient at the Right Time,
(see: www.ccs.ca). They were also published in the WTA's August 2005 report,
It's About Time!

    The "Patient's Journey"

    The CCS's benchmarks for access to care reflect the many steps that
patients take to receive cardiovascular health care services and procedures.
The patient's journey is about many steps -- not just one, (such as access to
cardiac bypass surgery). The patient journey begins with their first visit to
a primary health care provider, then to a specialist, then through many
additional steps including testing, procedures and surgery, and finally to
completion of rehabilitation and return to a healthy and productive life.
Unless all steps in a patient's care are addressed, optimal care cannot be
provided. For this reason, the CCS stresses that all of its benchmarks must be
adopted to truly have a meaningful impact on patients' access to
cardiovascular care. This is the "big picture" of cardiac care for patients.
    The CCS believes that wait times for most, if not all other areas of
care, are also about the patient's journey, (and not just one procedure or
    Cardiac bypass surgery (CABG), while potentially life-saving and very
important for some patients, is a procedure that is necessary for only a small
proportion of patients accessing cardiac care in Canada. Most patients require
other services. Angioplasty, for example, a procedure involving the opening of
an artery with a balloon via a catheter, is twice as common as CABG, and is
not addressed at all in the WTA report card. Addressing only the wait for CABG
(as governments have done) will not address the wait time to see a
cardiologist, or to have other required tests (such as a stress test, an
echocardiogram, a cardiac catheterization), or a therapeutic procedure for
other cardiac conditions.
    The CCS is a partner in the development of the Canadian Heart Health
Strategy to fight cardiovascular disease in Canada. See: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

For further information:

For further information: Louise Marcus, Director, Health Policy/Advocacy
Canadian Cardiovascular Society, (877)/(613) 569-3407 x412, Cell: (613)

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