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B.C. needs public solutions to wait times

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Premier Christy Clark <premier@gov.bc.ca>
Health Minister Terry Lake <terry.lake.mla@leg.bc.ca>
Opposition Leader John Horgan <oppositionleader@leg.bc.ca>
Opposition SP for Health Judy Darcy <judy.darcy.mla@leg.bc.ca>
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver <andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca>
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B.C. needs public solutions to wait times

Surgeons in an operating roomB.C.’s wait times for some surgeries are among the longest in the country. In recent years, they’ve gotten longer.

There are proven public system solutions that would dramatically shorten wait lists for everyone - but we would need the B.C. Government to make reducing wait times a higher priority in the upcoming months[1].

Richmond Hospital cut wait times for hip and knee replacements from 20 months to 5 months by using two operating rooms and having surgical teams move between them. All hospitals in B.C. could use this model, but we are going to need provincial leadership to make it happen.

18% of operating rooms in B.C.'s public hospitals are not regularly staffed, and none have extended hours. The B.C. government themselves have said we need to use our operating rooms to full capacity -  show them there’s public appetite for these kinds of solutions [2].

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People in B.C. deserve public solutions to wait times - initiatives that improve health care access for everyone. Unless our government takes action soon, profit-minded critics of public health care will continue to push for changes that benefit only a privileged few, lining the pockets of doctors at the expense of people in pain.

We're calling on the B.C. Government to bring in public solutions to wait times. These solutions could include:

  • Maximizing the use of public operating rooms.

Eighteen per cent of public hospital operating rooms are not regularly staffed, primarily because of inadequate funding. No operating rooms have extended hours. Doctors of BC – and even the BC government – have stated that existing public sector capacity should be fully utilized before any money goes to the private system.

  • Adopting a “first available surgeon” model of waiting list management

Wait times vary widely across surgeons and specialty areas. BC should move to centralized management of these waitlists to allow patients to see the first available specialist or surgeon. The implementation of a “first available surgeon” model does not prevent patients from seeing their preferred specialist.

  • Improving access to home and community care

Better access to affordable, high quality home and community-based care, especially for seniors, would reduce hospital bed shortages, cancellations of elective surgeries and, ultimately, wait times for all patients. Many patients, particularly seniors, end up in hospital beds because community alternatives are not available. This situation can be addressed by improving access to publicly funded home and community care to ensure the more appropriate use of health care resources and the best of care for our seniors.

  • Expanding "one-stop-shop" patient assessment clinics.

A multi-disciplinary team-based approach to surgical care would help better prepare patients for surgery. Potential patients would be assessed by a team of health professionals working at their full capacity, which would free up surgeons' time, and would provide support and education to help patients be better prepared for surgery, leading to fewer cancelled surgeries, better outcomes for patients, and shorter waits for everyone.

  • Scaling up innovative pilot projects

The Richmond Hip and Knee Reconstruction Project reduced wait times from 20 months to 5 months by improving the scheduling of surgeries and recovery beds. However, even with these positive results the project was not introduced to other hospitals, and was eventually put on hold.

 

[1] Reducing Surgical Wait Times: The Case for Public Innovation and Provincial Leadership (2016).  Andrew Longhurst, Marcy Cohen and Dr. Margaret McGregor

[2]  Future Directions for Surgical Services in British Columbia (2015). Ministry of Health and the Provincial Surgical Executive Committee.