Diagnostic Centres To Help Reduce Wait Times For Surgeries
‘New Plan Will Boost Availability Of Publicly Funded Health Services In Ontario’
TORONTO: The Ontario government is making it easier and faster for people to access publicly-funded surgeries and procedures by further leveraging community surgical and diagnostic centres to eliminate backlogs and reduce wait times. As the government significantly expands the number of surgeries being done through community surgical and diagnostic centres, it will do so with measures in place to protect the stability of health human resources at public hospitals, including requiring new facilities to provide detailed staffing plans as part of their application and requiring a number of physicians at these centres to have active privileges at their local hospital.
“When it comes to your health, the status quo is no longer acceptable,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Our government is taking bold action to reduce wait times for surgeries, all while ensuring Ontarians use their OHIP card to get the care they need, never their credit card.”
Community surgical and diagnostic centres have been valuable partners in responding to the pandemic and addressing the pandemic-related backlog in surgeries. Increasing community delivery of surgeries has proven to increase patient and provider satisfaction and reduces the risk of a rescheduled appointment. Surgeries performed at these centres will be publicly-funded.
Ontario has a three-step plan that better integrates and uses these state-of-the-art facilities to speed up how quickly people are able to get surgeries and procedures using their health card.
Step One: Ontario is urgently tackling the existing backlog for cataract surgeries, which has one of the longest waits for procedures. New partnerships with community surgical and diagnostic centres in Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa will add 14,000 additional cataract surgeries that will be performed each year. This number represents up to 25% of the province’s current cataract waitlist, and accounts for the estimated COVID-related backlog of cataract surgeries. These centres will perform the 14,000 additional surgeries with existing health human resources.
Ontario is also investing more than $18 million in existing centres to cover care for thousands of patients, including more than 49,000 hours of MRI and CT scans, 4,800 cataract surgeries, 900 other ophthalmic surgeries, 1,000 minimally invasive gynecological surgeries and 2,845 plastic surgeries such as hand soft tissue repair. Surgical wait lists are anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023, barring operational issues.
Step Two: To further reduce wait times, Ontario is expanding the scope of community surgical and diagnostic centres to address regional needs with a continued focus on cataracts, as well as MRI and CT imaging and colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures. To start as early as 2023, these procedures will be non-urgent, low-risk and minimally invasive and, in addition to shortening wait times, will allow hospitals to focus their efforts and resources on more complex and high-risk surgeries.
Step Three: Early detection and diagnosis of a health issue has an immense benefit on a patient’s quality of life, prognosis and treatment path.
The government will introduce legislation in February that will allow existing community diagnostic centres to conduct more MRI and CT scanning so that people can access diagnostic services faster and closer to home.
Starting in 2024, this next step will also expand surgeries for hip and knee replacements. As the province expands the role of community surgical and diagnostic centres, Ontario Health and the Ministry of Health will continue to work with system partners and clinical experts to put in place the highest standards for quality and safety.
“Timely and convenient access to surgery and diagnostic imaging is critical to keeping people healthy,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “This plan will boost the availability of publicly funded health services in Ontario, ensuring that Ontarians currently waiting for specialized surgeries will have greater access to the world class care they need, where and when they need it.”
Ontario Health will ensure that these centres are included in regional health system planning. Funding agreements with new community surgical and diagnostic centres will require these facilities to work with local public hospitals to ensure health system integration and linkages, including connection and reporting into the province’s wait times information system and participation in regional central intakes, where available. Community surgical and diagnostic centres will also coordinate with local public hospitals to accept patients.
• There are currently 206,000 people estimated to be waiting for surgical procedures. For reference, last fall, there were approximately 209,000 patients waiting for a hospital operating room-based surgical procedure in Ontario, and about 200,000 before the pandemic.
• Community surgical and diagnostic centres licensed under the Independent Health Facilities Act currently perform approximately 26,000 OHIP-insured surgeries and procedures annually.
• Ontario is investing $300 million in 2022/23 as part of the surgical recovery strategy to increase scheduled surgeries and procedures, as well as appropriate diagnostic imaging services.
• The government is also investing in digital tools to enhance coordination of surgical services between hospitals and enable better patient flow through the implementation of the Centralized Waitlist Management (CWM) program.
• Investments in the CWM program are providing funding for regionally led projects across the province that support a more equitable distribution of surgical cases and reductions in patient wait times, as well as for Ontario Health’s development of the technical infrastructure required to support centralized waitlist management at the provincial level.
Anthony Dale, President and CEO, Ontario Hospital Association, said: “The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) welcomes the opportunity to work together with government and system partners to integrate Community Surgical Centres into Ontario’s health care system and establish new partnerships between hospitals and community-based surgical clinics to help ensure access to care for patients. … it is essential that the expanded use of Community Surgical Centres into new areas of clinical activity take place in a planned manner with appropriate change management and risk management measures in place..”
Dr. Amit Atrey, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics University of Toronto Staff Trauma & Arthroplasty surgeon, St Michael’s Hospital, said: “As a surgeon, I feel any measure that will allow for more surgeries and cut wait times should be considered. Expanding the scope of Community Surgical Centres is a measure that could potentially help reduce wait times across the province..”
Dr. Rose Zacharias, President, Ontario Medical Association, said: “Experience elsewhere has shown that providing outpatient surgeries and procedures in the community greatly improves the patient experience. Patients get their surgeries sooner, have lower rates of infection and get to go home the same day. We look forward to working with the government to develop a strategy to make sure these new centres do not take resources away from hospitals or exacerbate existing health human resources.”
Allan O’Dette, CEO, Ontario Medical Association said; “This is an important solution that can help address wait times, one of the biggest structural problems in the health-care system. The OMA looks forward to working with the government to implement this model of care.”
Dr. Andy Smith, President and CEO, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, said: “Sunnybrook has had success in reducing patient wait times for both low risk and complex surgeries by partnering with health care organizations outside of the hospital. We are committed to improving the Ontario health care system in every way possible. .”
Dr. Kevin Smith, President and CEO, University Health Network, said: “This announcement, focused on day surgeries, is an important step in helping to reduce the surgical backlog and getting people surgeries they need in a timely manner, all while protecting universal access.”