A new study shows that Saskatchewan has the shortest wait times for surgery in Canada.
This news comes four years after an initiative was launched by the provincial government to get surgical wait times down to three months.
U of S professor Janice MacKinnon authored the “Learning from the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative to Improve Wait Times in Canada” study for the Fraser Institute.
She said other provinces should model their policies on Saskatchewan’s.
“Basically, the focus shifted to the patient,” said MacKinnon. “The initiative was ‘we’re going to have to get these people through the system more quickly and in order to do that we have to focus on them. The top of it was the commitment to making it happen.”
She said leadership was another reason the wait times came down.
“The provincial government boldly said in 2010 that by 2014 no person is going to wait more than three months for elective surgery,” said MacKinnon. “So what that said to the whole system is ‘we are doing this and we are committed to this and going to make it happen.'”
Mackinnon said no province has tackled the structural reasons that lead to the long wait times. The symptom has been dealt with which is the wait times.
Health Minister happy with results of report on wait times
Saskatchewan’s health minister is pleased with the recognition from the report. Dustin Duncan said it goes along with what he’s been hearing from his counterparts in other provinces.
“I’ve had colleagues at federal-provincial meetings that have asked what we did here in Saskatchewan to turn our numbers around.”
Duncan said recently he was asked about the two-for-one MRI policy that was passed in the last session.
The system is not all perfect and Duncan said there are still some things that can be improved. He explained there are things like pooled referrals they still want to push out to more regions.
Duncan also said they want to understand how the higher availability of MRIs with private clinics will impact wait times, though he doesn’t think it’s going to dramatically increase them.
In the past year, wait times have increased in the province. Duncan said close to 90 per cent of people are getting their surgeries within three month, and the rest are getting them within six months.
“Even with what we’ve seen in the last year, we’re still very well positioned when it comes to any other province in Canada in terms of our surgical waits,” said Duncan.
Last year it was suggested wait times were going up because of a lack of funds.
Duncan said they had to balance a tough fiscal plan, and putting significant money into the surgical program. In November, Duncan said they hadn’t cut funding to health regions, but may reassess whether the regions need all of their bi-weekly payments.
As for the coming year, Duncan said he couldn’t speak to what’s in the budget, but the government has had a conversation about how to keep the gains they’ve made on wait times.