Despite improvements, delays remain throughout the health system
Health Care in Canada, 2012: A Focus on Wait Times looks at people's experiences in accessing care across the health system. Seniors and Alternate Level of Care provides further insight into hospitalized patients waiting for long-term care or home care services.
Waiting to receive care
CIHI's data reveals that after entering an emergency department (ED), 1
person in 10 is there for eight hours or more. The overall average
length of stay is longer than four hours.
Compared with countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the
United States, Canada actually has the highest percentage of patients
waiting four hours or more in the ED before being treated.
Waits occur not only in emergency rooms but throughout the patient
journey. They start with primary care: more than half of Canadians
surveyed say they can't get an appointment with their family physician
on the same or next day--but only a small proportion (15%) of Canadians
report that they find this wait unacceptable.
Dissatisfaction with the wait to see a specialist, however, is nearly
double that: 29% find their wait unacceptable; 14% of patients waited
more than three months for their appointment.
Regarding elective surgery, 25% of people reported waiting four or more
months. As for priority surgeries--in cancer care, cardiac care, joint
replacement and sight restoration--wait times have been reduced since
2004-2005, largely because of targeted investment in these areas.
Waiting to leave acute care
Some people remain in hospital beds while they wait for transfers to
more appropriate settings such as long-term care facilities or home
with services. On any given day, about 5% of patients in acute hospital
beds across the country are waiting to move. One in five of them wait
more than a month; most of these patients are age 65 or older. Patients
with dementia or receiving palliative care are among those most likely
The Seniors and Alternate Level of Care report shows that among seniors who waited for care in a more appropriate setting, more than half (54%) were discharged to a
long-term care facility. The median wait for placement in residential
care was almost a month (26 days). Those discharged home with home care
services in place have shorter waits, at about a week.
Improving waits across health system
"Wait times have improved for certain types of care, but more can still
be done," said John Wright, President and CEO, CIHI. "Some strategies
that could have wide-ranging impact include looking at how care is
organized, at patient flow across sectors of care, and at implementing
successful pilot projects more broadly."
The Health Care in Canada, 2012 report highlights several specific initiatives that have demonstrated some success at reducing waits by focusing on financial incentives,
human resources and information management. Examples include advanced
access models implemented in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New
Brunswick, and the role of clinical nurse leaders in Yukon.
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