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August 1, 2017
Vancouver ~ A study of wait times for 4,100 BC orthopaedic patients concluded that the average journey from referral to surgery was “worrisomely long at 59.5 weeks,” according to the study’s authors Drs. Alastair Younger and Dr. Kevin Wing.
“This study confirmed what our members – orthopaedic surgeons in British Columbia – have long known: our patients wait up to one year for non-emergency access to consultation and care,” Dr. Younger said. “It’s been difficult to get accurate information about this, especially when the BC Ministry of Health’s own website seems to suggest access to surgery takes only a few weeks.”
Published this week in the BC Medical Journal (BCMJWaitTimes) and funded by the BC Orthopaedic Association, the province-wide study looked at wait times for orthopaedic care in all five health regions and examined regional variations as well. The data was collected from 49 orthopaedic surgeons between May and July of last year.
“All health authorities have long waits for consultation and surgery, with some variation by region,” Dr. Younger said. “The bright spots with lower wait times for consultation were regions in which there are surgeon-led multi-disciplinary clinics that utilize centralized intake and ‘first available surgeon’ strategies to reduce wait times.”
Drs. Younger and Wing pointed out that the province’s announcement last month of more funding for hip and knee replacements do not address the trauma surgery increases created by our growing and aging population. “Orthopaedic surgeons cover both elective surgery and fractured bones,” Dr. Younger explained. “The fractures are often managed at night and over weekends, and amount to over 50% of the work performed by orthopaedic surgeons.
“We feel strongly that unequal access to care is a violation of the Accessibility Principle of the Canada Health Act and indeed, restricted access to care may be viewed as a human rights violation. We take these ethical and legal considerations seriously,” Dr. Younger said. “In addition, we treat many children, teens and young adults who may face lifelong disabilities or missed opportunities without appropriate and timely care.”
The BCOA 2017 wait time study, will be repeated later this year.