A new national report on wait times is showing Newfoundland and Labrador is measuring up or outperforming most other provinces in some key areas.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released its report, Wait Times for Priority Procedures in Canada 2013, on Tuesday.
“Newfoundland is where we are seeing improvement. Patients are more likely to get surgeries in the recommended timeframe,” director of health system analysis Kathleen Morris said in an interview about the report, which examines 2012 data.
In 2004, the provinces committed to reducing waits in five priority areas and set benchmarks for radiation therapy, cardiac bypass surgery, hip and knee replacements, hip fracture repair and cataract surgery.
This year’s report was unable to measure the cardiac bypass surgeries against benchmarks, because definitions of urgency vary from province to province.
In the beginning as provinces targeted the key areas, wait times reduced drastically, CIHI said.
But as record numbers of Canadians required the treatments in 2012, there was no overall reduction in the length of time patients waited, according to CIHI.
“Hospitals across Canada continue to provide more procedures to more patients,” CIHI president Jeremy Veillard, vice president of research and analysis said in a news release.
“At the same time, this growing volume presents a challenge to efforts to reduce the time that each individual patient waits.”
In this province, CIHI attributed some of the progress to increased funding for additional hip and knee replacements in 2012.
Newfoundland and Labrador is one of only two provinces that showed improvement over three years in meeting the key joint replacement benchmarks, according to the report.
Newfoundland is running counter to the trend for joint replacements — hip or knee — in the rest of the country by actually showing improvement, Morris said.
In this province, some 83 per cent of patients (up from 75 per cent in 2010) received hip replacements within the benchmark time frame; 81 per cent received knee replacements and hip fracture repairs within benchmark, 82 per cent received cataract procedures within benchmark and 98 per cent received radiation therapy.
Knee replacements are up from 67 per cent within benchmark in 2010.
Percentages for radiation therapy are high across the country and ranged from 89 per cent in Nova Scotia to 100 per cent in Manitoba.
The benchmark wait times for each procedure are: hip and knee replacement— within 182 days; hip fracture repair — 48 hours; cataract surgery — 112 days and radiation therapy — 28 days.
Demand on joint replacement across the country are driven by an aging population, and health problems like obesity and arthritis. As well, advancements in technology mean surgeons are more willing to do the procedure in younger people, Morris said.