Ontario's Wait Time Strategy
What is Meant by Wait Times?
In the health care system, a "wait time" is how long a person must wait for a specific procedure. This may be composed of several different periods of waiting ¾ for example, a patient may first wait to see a general practitioner, then wait for diagnostic testing, and later wait for a specialist before treatment begins. In Ontario, wait times are measured from when the procedure is formally booked until it is actually carried out.
Wait Time Strategy
Ontarians care deeply about the health care they receive. They're very concerned about the health care their children will have access to in the future. The Ontario government is creating a system that helps people stay healthy, delivers good care to them when they get sick and will be there for generations to come.
The government's plan for health care operates on three fronts: focusing on keeping people healthier, increasing access to doctors and other health professionals and reducing wait times.
Wait times are the barometer by which many people measure the quality of the health care they are receiving. However good a medical procedure might be, it won't help the patient unless it is delivered in time. The Ontario government has a plan to reduce wait times and increase access to five major health services: cancer surgery, cardiac procedures, cataract surgery, hip and knee replacements and MRI and CT exams.
Ontario's Wait Time Strategy is designed to increase the number of procedures being delivered across the province, thereby reducing wait times, and also to improve the way wait times are managed.
Today's announcement will provide full operational funding in 2005/2006 for:
- 4,300 more total hip and knee joint replacements, an increase of 16 per cent over 2004/2005
- 14,000 additional cataract surgeries, an increase of 13 per cent over 2004/2005
- 39,500 more MRI exams by continuing to extend hours of operation at existing MRI machines. This is in addition to the 37,260 more exams for 2005/2006 from last year's investment in seven replacement MRI machines, the new hospital MRI machines and expanded hours of operation at the repatriated MRIs in independent health facilities, for a total increase in MRI exams of 24 per cent this year.
- 7,000 more cardiac procedures, an increase of seven per cent over 2004/2005, and
- 2,900 additional cancer surgeries over 2004/2005.
Managing Wait Times
As a result of these investments, Ontarians will receive more of these critical procedures, faster. But the strategy is about more than that.
For the first time, the government is building a system to measure and report to patients on a Wait Time website. By December 2006, a provincial surgical registry for the five key areas will be established, with data being regularly posted to the website. Ontarians will be able to see how long people are waiting for which services, in which parts of the province. This will allow them to make informed choices about their health care and will clearly highlight the progress the government is making in delivering on one of its key health care commitments. The registry will also allow health care professionals to set priorities based on the needs of patients. The long-term goal is to expand the registry to include all surgeries delivered in Ontario.
A number of other initiatives are also being developed by panels of experts who are advising the government on how to make Ontario's wait time management more efficient. These panels will also give advice on how to set appropriate targets so that patients and providers alike understand how long a wait for a specific procedure is appropriate, and how long is too long.