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Funding not enough: medical society pens letter to MLAs about rising surgical wait times

Last Updated Sep 22, 2019 at 11:42 pm PST

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Summary

The BC Anesthesiologists' Society sent the letter on Sept. 9 with the current number of patients waiting for surgery

They say as of August, is 91,150, jumping from 90,801 the month before

The province has designated $175 million in funding to reduce surgical wait times

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — More than 90,000 people are waiting for surgery in B.C., and growing waitlists prompted a medical society to send a letter to every MLA in the province.

The BC Anesthesiologists Society (BCAS) sent the letter on Sept. 9 pointing out the current number of patients waiting for surgery. As of August, the number was 91,150, jumping from 90,801 the month before.

The BCAS Chief Executive Director Dr. Roland Orflay says the number of patients on surgical waitlists has reached a record-high and this is distressing for patients.

“They’re actually afraid of dying while they’re waiting for medically necessary surgery. Others are in pain. Others are facing the side effects of pain killers while they’re waiting for surgery. There are patients with cancer who are worried about the outcome of their cancer because of the time they have to wait for surgery,” says Orflay.

Of those already waiting, he says many have already exceed the “maximum acceptable wait time” for their surgery, or how long it is reasonable to wait before it is considered too long. The time-frame depends on the surgery.

“Each surgery has a limit, and according to the Ministry’s own data, 41 per cent of British Columbians had already waited too long, and they were still on the waitlist,” he says.

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While the province has designated $175 million in funding to specifically reduce surgical wait times, Orflay says increasing efficiency of care in hospitals is what’s missing.

“We commend the government for the investments they’re making, but clearly there are challenges within the health care system that are making the wait list get longer even though there’s that financial investment,” he says. “Every hospital is going to need a slightly different tweak on the solution. The number one outcome that we would like to see is more efficiency in the system, so that even with the resources we have today that we can get more surgeries done and reduce those wait times.”

Now, the BCAS wants to work with the province and the Ministry of Health to reverse the trend, and although the wait list is growing, Orflay believes it can be fixed.

“The problem is very big and it seems to be worsening. But we want to reinforce that it’s not insurmountable, that there are effective solutions. If the ministry works with us to implement some of these solutions, that the situation will improve,” Orflay says. “Every hospital is going to need a slightly different tweak on the solution. The number one outcome we would like to see is more efficiency in the system so that even with the resources we have today we can get more surgeries done and reduce those wait times.”

He says he has received a few comments from the Ministry of Health and hopes this leads to future meetings to discuss possible changes.

“The B.C. Anesthesiologists’ Society has offered many proven solutions to help improve surgical wait times and reduce the waitlist. We are ready, willing, and able to work with the government to reverse the worsening trend for patients waiting for surgery,” he says.

NEWS 1130 has reached out to the Ministry of Health, but has not heard back yet.