Albertans face longer waits for cataract surgeries, national report says

Albertans are waiting longer for cataract surgeries with only 58 per cent getting it done within the medically acceptable wait time in 2016, according to a new report that compares wait times for priority surgeries across the country.

In 2016, 58 per cent of Albertans needing cataract surgery received their procedure within the medically acceptable 112-day wait time, compared with 69 per cent in 2012,  Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) said in its annual report on wait times for priority procedures.

Across Canada, there was a significant drop in the proportion of Canadians who were able to get cataract surgery within the targeted wait time of 112 days: 73 per cent of patients received cataract surgery within the benchmark time frame in 2016, compared with 83 per cent in 2012, CIHI said.

The report said 82 per cent of Albertans needing hip replacement surgery got the procedure done within the benchmark 182 days in 2016, compared to 84 per cent in 2012.

"But the length of the wait varied depending on where in the province the patient received care," CIHI said in a news release.

More than nine out of 10 Albertans who needed hip fracture repair had the surgery within the 48-hour benchmark, an improvement since 2012, when eight out of 10 had their surgery done within that time.

Almost all patients —99 per cent — started their radiation therapy within the 28-day benchmark, CIHI said, up slightly from 97 per cent in 2012.

In a statement, Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said people in need of urgent care will get it.

"There have been some good improvements on wait times for things like hip fracture repair and radiation therapy, and our stroke treatment centres provide among the fastest treatment in the world," Hoffman said.

"However, we also know there is much more to do to improve wait times for Albertans.

"As our population grows and ages, we are seeing a significant increase in demand for health procedures, including cataract surgery and diagnostic imaging.

"We are working with physicians to increase efficiency and capacity while reducing inappropriate testing through Choosing Wisely. [Alberta Health Services] is also focused on improving its referral system to avoid unnecessary delays wherever possible."

The CIHI report also includes information on wait times for diagnostic imaging and cancer surgery.

The institute has an online Wait Times tool with data organized by province, health region and procedure.