New Brunswick to list surgery wait times by surgeon

·4 min read
Only 30 per cent of knee replacements provincewide between January and March were completed within the national benchmark of 182 days, with one out of 10 still waiting after 563 days. (Bright097/Shutterstock - image credit)
Only 30 per cent of knee replacements provincewide between January and March were completed within the national benchmark of 182 days, with one out of 10 still waiting after 563 days. (Bright097/Shutterstock - image credit)

New Brunswick plans to update its surgical wait times website to include the wait times for each surgeon, a memo from the Department of Health reveals.

This change "reflects an intent to increase transparency in public reporting and promote improved planning of referrals amongst referring providers," the memo signed by acting Assistant Deputy Minister Éric Levesque states.

It will also bring New Brunswick "more in line with [its] provincial counterparts, while providing citizens of New Brunswick a means to inform themselves on wait times for surgical procedures in New Brunswick," he wrote.

The wait times website currently provides wait times in days for health care facilities, surgical specialties and select surgical procedures.

Once updated, the website will list each surgeon, their specialty, health zone and wait time in days.

The update is expected to take effect this summer, according to the memo.

The Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

The New Brunswick Medical Society, which represents the province's doctors, declined to comment Monday, including saying whether it was consulted about the change and what, if any concerns it has.

"We are supposed to get a walk-through of the new system and how it will function in the coming days," spokesperson Jim Johnson said in an email. "We'll hold off on commenting on it until we have a clearer picture of how it will operate."

College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick registrar Dr. Ed Schollenberg was out of the province and could not be reached for comment.

The website update falls under the purview of the provincial surgical advisory group established in June 2020 to advise the Department of Health, and the regional health authorities, on strategies to address issues related to the provision of surgery in New Brunswick, including wait times, timeliness and appropriateness of service.

"We strongly feel that reporting surgeon wait time information can help citizens and providers alike understand the wait times for surgery around the province, and thus make informed decisions about their wait time journey," wrote Levesque.

Pilot will give citizens a choice

Last November, the department released a new provincial health plan entitled, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action, which addresses "long wait times for surgeries."

It outlined a pilot project that was slated to begin in April, where primary care providers would be able to electronically refer citizens to orthopedic specialists, and the citizens would then get to choose either the next available specialist in their health zone or wait for a specific surgeon.

"Citizens will receive faster access to specialist care through an integrated e-consultation system implemented for physicians provincewide," the plan stated.

"Over the course of the next two years, this process will expand to include other specialties provincewide," Health Minister Dorothy Shephard had said.

By 2023, the list of citizens waiting more than a year for hip and knee replacement surgery will be eliminated, and no one will wait more than a year for the service, Shephard had said.

Within two years, all surgical wait times will be cut in half, she said.

Failing to meet national benchmarks

As the province's population ages, more surgeries are required, and "as staff shortages persist, New Brunswick has been falling behind national timelines for hip and knee replacement surgeries," the plan indicates.

In New Brunswick, only 47 per cent of citizens receive a hip or knee replacement within six months from the time the orthopedic surgeon agrees to operate.

By comparison, 72 per cent of Canadians receive the surgery within six months of being referred.

For hip replacements, five out of 10 surgeries provincewide were completed within 192 days between January and March, the wait times website shows.

One out of 10 provincewide was still not done after 490 days.

That's two and a half times the national benchmark for hip replacements of 182 days.

Government of New Brunswick
Government of New Brunswick

The Moncton Hospital has the longest wait, with one out of 10 still waiting 595 days.

"Please note: data from January – March 2020 onwards should be viewed with caution as wait times have been directly impacted due to COVID-19," the website advises.

A total of 180 hip replacements were completed across the province between January and March 2022.

During that same period last year, 328 hip replacements were completed, five out of 10 within 273 days and one out of 10 still waiting after 493 days.

Government of New Brunswick
Government of New Brunswick

For knee replacements, five out of 10 surgeries were completed within 287 days between January and March this year, while one was still waiting after 563 days.

The national benchmark for knee replacements is also 182 days.

Again, the Moncton Hospital had the longest wait, with one out of 10 not completed after 853 days.

There were 260 knee replacements completed during that three-month period.

Last year saw 604 knee replacements completed in that time frame. Five out of 10 were completed within 271 days and one was still waiting after 544 days.

Based on current projections, nearly one-third of New Brunswick's population will be over the age of 65 by the late-2030s, according to the department.

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