Since the start of the Manitoba NDP’s last term, our province has seen mixed results on wait times for important hospital procedures.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information has released a report today looking at the five-year trend in wait times for what they call ‘priority procedures’.
Those are hip and knee replacements, hip fracture repairs, cataract surgery and radiation therapy.
If you need cataract surgery, you are less likely to get it in good time than you were in 2011.
Only 41 per cent of Manitobans were treated within the recommended 16 weeks in 2015.
That follows a steady decline the previous four years, though CIHI says the 2015 number is not directly comparable because of changes in methodology and coverage.
Dr. Lorne Bellan is an ophthalmologist at Misericordia Health Centre. Misericordia performs more than 9,000 cataract surgeries per year. He says they used to do about 600 more surgeries, but a few years ago, that funding was removed.
Meanwhile, their wait list continues to grow. He says 10 years ago, it was around 2,000 people. Today, it’s around 5,000.
The fix? Funding to do more surgeries.
“I think it’s a simple equation. The wait list will continue to grow if we maintain the same volume… the average age for people getting cataract surgery is 74, so as the baby boomers age, that’s why the demand keeps increasing, or that’s a big part of it,” he said.
He says they have managed to find some efficiencies over the past few years. He says they’re doing the same amount of surgeries with 100 fewer operating slates than the year before.
“Those rooms are lying idle right now,” he said.
Demand for the procedures has increased nationally. While slightly more procedures are being done, the Canadian average for waits mirrors Manitoba’s – a steady decline from 83 per cent of procedures being done in a timely manner to 76 per cent over five years.
But CIHI says the trend isn’t consistent across all provinces. While BC and Ontario saw significant declines, more provinces saw improvements in cataract surgeries.
Manitoba made improvements in joint procedures.
In 2011, only 59 per cent of Manitoba patients got a hip replacement within the recommended benchmark treatment time of six months. In 2015, 69 per cent did.
Sixty-four per cent of patients got a knee replacement within the recommended six months in 2015, compared to 52 per cent in 2011.
But Manitoba is still well below the Canadian average for both – 81 per cent for hips and 77 per cent of knees.
Dr. Eric Bohm from the Concordia Hip and Knee Institute says they’ve done a better job connecting patients with surgeons, which has helped cut down wait times.
Surgeons do 3,000 replacements total at the Concordia and Grace Hospitals per year. But he says they need to increase the number of procedures done by 4-5 per cent per year to keep improving significantly.
He says they could do more surgeries than they do now in their current facilities for just the cost of the replacement and surgical supplies. But to make a big dent in wait times, they need more operating and recovery rooms. He says that would likely cost millions of dollars.
“Right now the issue is beds at Concordia Hospital and beds and operating room time at the Grace Hospital,” he said.
CIHI says the demand for joint replacements has steadily increased. Part of that can be attributed to population aging. But the report says osteoarthritis, obesity, occupational habits, previous injuries and sports also play a role.
The province is above average for hip fracture repairs – it improved from 85 per cent of patients treated within the recommended 48 hours to 92 per cent.
Manitoba has always done well in radiation therapy. 100 per cent of patients started receiving patients within 28 days every year from 2011 to 2015.
What are the parties promising?
We asked the Manitoba Liberal, NDP and PC parties what they would do to help cut down wait times for cataract and other priority surgeries.
In a statement, the NDP said they would work with the RHAs to increase funding for cataract surgeries.
“We know that focused investments have brought down the wait for hip and knee surgery, as well as cataract surgery, but we also know that we need to continue investing to ensure that people receive quicker access to health care. That’s why a re-elected NDP will work with health care practitioners to ensure funding increases for priority procedures, and work to bring all wait times down.”
The Progressive Conservatives repeated a promise to set up a task force to look for ways to reduce wait times, but did not promise any specific funding in a statement.
“We will shorten wait times by mandating an expert task force of front line health care providers to recommend specific actions to shorten wait times in emergency rooms and for other priority procedures and treatments.”
Neil Johnston, the Liberal candidate in Riel, tells 680 CJOB his party would fund more joint replacement surgeries and would look at funding more cataract surgeries.
“I think we’d definitely have to look at the numbers (for cataracts). I think it’s probably more straightforward to do because the post-op period is pretty short and doesn’t usually require hospitalization. So I would say we are likely to fund it, but would have to look at all the numbers first,” he said,