Eliminating Code Gridlock in Canada’s Health Care System: 2015 Wait Time Alliance Report Card
For the past decade, the Wait Time Alliance (WTA) has been reporting on Canada’s progress to reduce health care wait times. There have been reductions for the initial five areas identified in the 2004 Health Accord even as health care systems have faced increased demand for care. But despite these encouraging signs, there are more areas in need of attention, such as primary care, mental health services, home care, long-term care and palliative care, if wait times across the system are to be reduced on a sustained basis.
Code gridlock is a term used by hospitals for a system-wide situation where patients can’t move. Without access to more appropriate community-based resources, patients who no longer require acute care continue to occupy in-patient hospital beds. This causes a cascading effect on wait times: these beds are no longer free for patients in the emergency room or recovering from surgery; ambulances are unable to offload and elective surgeries are cancelled. Code gridlock is an issue that involves many parts of the health care system and requires a system-wide solution.
The 2015 WTA report card highlights timely access on two broader system-related issues: seniors care and care provided to populations falling under federal jurisdiction (i.e., First Nations, refugees, veterans, Canadian Forces and inmates in federal prisons).
Changes to WTA grading
While previous report cards have graded provinces against both government and WTA wait-time benchmarks, the WTA believes that its own benchmarks are the most appropriate assessment of performance. As such, this year’s report grades wait times using only the WTA benchmarks.
- The WTA benchmark for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is six weeks for patients awaiting elective surgery whereas the government pan-Canadian benchmark is 26 weeks.
- The WTA benchmark to access radiation therapy is 10 days whereas the government pan-Canadian benchmark is four weeks.
- Through the efforts of the Canadian Association of Radiologists, the WTA has set a national benchmark of eight weeks (60 days) to access a MRI or CT scan.