Anesthesiologists decry BC surgical wait times
January 23, 2019
VICTORIA – Wait times for surgery in B.C. have tripled since 2002, say the province’s anesthesiologists, who are urging more collaboration between the government, political parties and health authorities to solve the issue.
More than 85,000 British Columbians were waiting for surgery at the end of the last fiscal year, according to data logged by the Ministry of Health and presented in a 10-page discussion paper by the B.C. Anesthesiologists Society.
The BC Anesthesiologists’ Society (BCAS) released the ‘Far Too Long, Far Too Many’ report on January 15, and in a news release, the organization says this is the first in a series of discussion papers on BC’s “worrisome increase” in surgical wait-lists and wait-times.
“We undertook considerable research to determine the size and extent of B.C.’s surgical wait-lists, as well as the length of time patients must endure before they receive treatment,” said Dr. Roland Orfaly, chief executive officer of the BCAS. “It is surprising just how large – and how quickly – B.C.’s wait-lists have grown in recent years.
“Our research discovered, for example, that since 2001/02 the number of people waiting for surgery has risen at a rate three-times greater than the rate of increase in the province’s total population.”
According to national guidelines that came out of a First Ministers’ meeting back in 2004, the longest acceptable wait time for a surgery is 26 weeks – around six months.
“Of those 85,000 people who were waiting at the end of the last fiscal year, 35,000 of them had already waited longer than that maximum acceptable benchmark,” Orfaly told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC’s The Early Edition.
There are no easy solutions, he emphasized, and any fix will have to come out of working with the provincial government, the regional health authorities and other healthcare providers. “This isn’t a problem that’s developed overnight,” he said.
The province’s doctors are currently negotiating a new agreement with the government next year and some have pointed to compensation as an underlying reason for medical waits. Orfaly disagrees and says the problem runs much deeper.
“Frankly, I don’t think that a multifactorial, complex problem like surgical wait times is going to be addressed at a compensation table,” Orfaly said.
He pointed out the political platforms and promises of B.C.’s three major parties during the last election as an opportunity to work together.
“This is not a partisan issue, this is a public issue,” Orfaly said.
“We need to get all the stakeholders, including patients and their families, at one table and figure out what’s going to work.”