Wait time priority procedures continue to increase

    Surgical rates outside of priority areas remain relatively stable

    OTTAWA, June 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Over a two-year period, Canadian patients
outside Quebec underwent almost 60,000 additional surgical procedures in
priority areas targeted for wait time reductions, according to a new study by
the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). In 2004, Canada's first
ministers committed to reduce wait times in four key areas involving surgery:
hip and knee replacements, sight restoration, cancer and cardiac
revascularization. Between 2004-2005 and 2006-2007, surgical rates in these
priority areas increased by 8% overall, after population growth and aging were
accounted for. CIHI's study found that growth was greater in the first year
after the first ministers' agreement (7% in 2005-2006) than in the second year
(1% in 2006-2007).
    In comparison, the rate of surgical procedures outside of priority areas
held steady between 2004-2005 and 2006-2007. While the actual number of
operations increased over the two-year period, the surgical rates stayed
relatively flat after adjusting for population growth and aging, growing 3% in
the first year and decreasing slightly (-2%) in the second.
    "Increasing the number of surgical procedures is one strategy used to
reduce wait times. After an initial surge of activity in the year following
the first ministers' agreement, our study shows continued but more modest
growth in priority areas in 2006-2007," says Glenda Yeates, CIHI's president
and CEO. "To this point, these additional operations do not appear to have
come at the expense of other procedures, but it is important that we continue
to monitor these trends."

    Joint replacements and cataract operations account for most of the growth
    in priority area procedures

    In 2006-2007, more than 500,000 Canadians outside Quebec had an operation
in one of the four priority areas. Joint replacements and cataract surgery
accounted for most of the growth in priority area procedures over the two
years since the first ministers' agreement, with standardized rates for these
two procedures up 22% and 13% respectively. The rate of cardiac
revascularization procedures remained stable over this time period, while
surgical rates for cancer experienced a slight increase (1%).
    "While efforts are being made to increase the number of surgical
procedures in priority areas, data on who is waiting for what and how long are
still evolving," says Kathleen Morris, a research and analysis consultant at
CIHI. "In the meantime, tracking the increase in priority area operations over
time, and the effect this increase is having on other operations, offers an
interesting snapshot of access to care in this country."

    Provincial variations

    While the overall number of priority surgical procedures increased in all
provinces between 2004-2005 and 2006-2007, there were variations between
jurisdictions, both in the size of the increases and in trends by type of
procedure. After adjusting for population growth and aging, increases over the
two-year period ranged from 2% in Nova Scotia and 4% in Saskatchewan and
British Columbia to 11% in Ontario and 15% in Manitoba.
    Over the same two-year period, the rate at which surgical procedures were
performed outside the priority areas either remained stable or increased in
all provinces. Across the provinces, after adjusting for population growth and
aging, growth in surgery outside the priority areas was highest in
Newfoundland and Labrador (6%), with rates remaining about the same in
Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick. While overall rates of surgery outside
priority areas have been able to keep pace with population growth, there may
still be variation by region, facility, specialty or type of procedure.

    Supply of key health care providers

    The growth in priority area surgical procedures has raised questions
about the impact on other services provided by physician specialists, such as
consultations with patients. CIHI's report found that in 2005-2006, the most
recent year of data available, specialists provided about the same rate of
consultations as they did in previous years.
    Questions have also been raised about the broader impact of the emphasis
on surgical priorities on health human resources. A more long-term analysis
shows that in the five-year period between 2002 and 2006 (during which the
population grew by 4%), the number of physicians classified as surgical
specialists increased by 2%. Over the same time period, the number of
registered nurses reporting surgery as their main area of responsibility
increased by 21%, indicating a shift in the kind of work nurses are doing.

    About CIHI

    The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and
analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly
available. Canada's federal, provincial and territorial governments created
CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a
common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI's goal: to provide
timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI's data and reports inform
health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise
awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health.

    The report, as well as the following figure and table, is available from
    CIHI's website at www.cihi.ca.

    Table 1   Changes in Procedures Within and Beyond Wait Time Priority
              Areas, 2004-2005 to 2006-2007 (Excluding Quebec)

    Figure 1  Two-Year Change in Rates of Surgery Both Within and Outside
              Wait Time Priority Areas, 2004-2005 to 2006-2007

For further information:

For further information: Media contacts: Leona Hollingsworth, (613)
241-7860 ext. 4140, Cell: (613) 612-3914, lhollingsworth@cihi.ca; Jennie
Hoekstra, (613) 241-7860 ext. 4331, Cell: (613) 725-4097, jhoekstra@cihi.ca

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