Victoria is coughing up an additional $10 million to increase the number of surgeries in the province, including increasing surgical slates for patients who have waited more than 40 weeks for surgery.
“I understand that waiting for surgery is frustrating, and the solution is more than just funding,” said Health Minister Terry Lake in a June 1 Ministry of Health press release.
Health authorities will begin increasing surgeries over the summer, and complete up to 1,000 extra surgeries throughout the province from June to August, including orthopaedics, hernias, ear, nose and throat, cataracts and plastics.
As well, the province promises to introduce further “increases to capacity” in the fall and continuing through March 2016.
It may be a start, but it’s not enough for one Salmon Arm resident.
“It’s about time the B.C. government took action to reduce surgical wait times,” says Anne Morris, who has been on the waiting list for a hip replacement since October 2013. “While the extra money will help, it’s only a temporary solution to the problem.”
Morris suggests B.C. adopt a system of dedicated clinics for joint replacement surgeries such as Alberta Health Services provides.
“We already have this for cataract surgery. Why not for joint replacements?” she asks. “Ending long surgical wait times would also demonstrate that our public medicare system is working and that B.C. doesn’t need private surgical treatment centres, as advocated by Dr. Brian Day, who was recently elected president of the BC Doctors Association.”
While the total number of surgeries done in B.C. has increased 33 per cent over the last 12 years, an unprecedented demand ha caused an increase in wait times. Health authorities are working with the Ministry of Health on short- and long-term plans that align with this strategy.
In the short term, health authorities will use the additional funding to add to operating room slates, contracting with private sector surgical sites, or a combination. All surgeries will be publicly funded.
“The ministry asked us to put together a plan to address our challenges. We have done so, and have submitted it to the Ministry of Health,” said Susan Brown IH vice-president of Acute Services.
“I can’t share the details of our plan, or how much funding we anticipate receiving to enact it, until it has been approved… we hope to be in a position to share those actions shortly.”