New Wait Time Alliance Report Card reveals important lessons for next Health Accord
Ottawa (December 8, 2015) — The Wait Time Alliance’s (WTA) tenth national report card shows that, despite encouraging signs that wait times for the initial five areas identified in the 2004 Health Accord are being reduced, progress to reduce waits for care other medical procedures and treatments is spotty across the country.
“The upcoming work between the federal and provincial and territorial governments on a new Health Accord for Canada is a great opportunity for our elected leaders to create a new national vision for our health care system,” said Dr. Chris Simpson, chair of the WTA. “The WTA report card shows that Canadians need action to reduce waits beyond the initial five areas identified in the 2004 Health Accord.”
As in previous years, the 2015 WTA report card found that Canadians are still waiting too long for care and that significant variation exists among some provinces; timely access is often still affected by where you live, and often, how old you are. Key findings in the 2015 report card include:
- Nationally, the picture of timely access has not changed significantly over the past year. Those provinces who did well in 2014 continue to be the best in 2015 – Saskatchewan, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador;
- The number of provinces reporting Emergency Department wait times continues to grow. PEI and BC are the latest to do so in approximate real time – updated every five minutes;
- On the primary care front – PEI now reports on wait time to access a family physician – the first province to do so;
- New in 2015, the report card draws special attention to the issue of timely access to care for elderly Canadians and also looks at wait times for those populations falling under federal jurisdiction (First Nations, refugees, veterans, Canadian Forces and inmates in federal prisons).
“If we are going to reduce wait times across the system on a sustained basis, we must better integrate areas such as primary care, mental health services, home care, long-term care and palliative care,” added Dr. Simpson. “Shortages in these areas all too often lead to more people, particularly seniors, spending more time in hospital when they could and should be getting care elsewhere.”
The WTA report cited the current lack of suitable living arrangements for seniors, such as supportive residential care models and long-term care beds, as having a huge impact on our health care system. Many senior patients are left waiting in acute care hospital beds until more appropriate care can be arranged. As a result, hospitals simply run out of beds and become over-crowded, leading to longer wait times in the emergency room and for tests and surgeries.
The WTA is encouraged by the government’s commitment of $3 billion toward a social infrastructure program, which could go a long way toward helping patients remain in their communities and get better care, while making better use of limited health care resources.
“We’re encouraged that a key part of the Health Minister’s mandate will be to work with provincial and territorial governments toward addressing many of these inequities and removing barriers that Canadians currently face in receiving care,” said Dr. Simpson.
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 General Surgeons, 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 Geriatrics Society, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society, the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Rheumatology Association, the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.