Albertans face long waiting times for cancer surgery, report says by Keith Gerein, April 13, 2016, Edmonton Journal
Albertans needing surgery to treat colorectal, breast and other common forms of cancer face lengthening delays that rank among the worst in the country, new statistics show.
The annual Canadian Institute for Health Information comparison of waiting times found while Alberta has improved its performance for some procedures, delays for cancer surgeries are anywhere from a few days to a few weeks longer than the national average.
“We have done some improvements in some areas, but I acknowledge we do need to improve in other areas,” said Dr. Francois Belanger, acting vice-president of quality and chief medical officer for Alberta Health Services. “I would agree the area we need focus on is cancer surgery.”
Of the five types of cancers included in the institute’s report, the numbers show a significant increase in surgical waits for four of them last year.
As an example, 90 per cent of Alberta patients needing bladder cancer surgery received the procedure within 70 days, or 10 weeks. That was the second worst rate in the county and 11 days longer than the national average. Two years earlier, Alberta was ahead of the national average by nine days.
The pattern was similar for colorectal cancer surgery, in which Alberta finished last and 23 days behind the national average. As for prostate cancer, it took the province three weeks longer last year to get out the scalpel for 90 per cent of patients.
Waits for breast cancer surgery increased less sharply than the others, but the province finished with one of the worst results in the country in 2015.
The only piece of good news was in the area of lung cancer, one of the most lethal forms of the disease. In 2013, Alberta patients were waiting twice as long as other Canadians for operations, but AHS has reduce the delays to within two weeks of the national average.
Overall, the results have to be considered disappointing, in part because AHS injected an additional $20 million last year into cancer surgery in Calgary and Edmonton.
“It helped and we are doing more volume,” Belanger said. “Has the investment been enough to support enough improvement? That’s something we have to look at.”
A growing and aging population has been the biggest challenge in controlling waiting times, but there have also been other factors [Like Fracing?], Belanger said. As an example, he mentioned the emergence of the easy new test for colon cancer that has added to the volume of patients seeking treatment.
As well, he acknowledged the increased operating room time and resources devoted to reducing waiting times for patients with lung cancer may have exacerbated delays for other surgery.
He said AHS is looking at finding ways to treat more patients, including extending operating room hours into the evening, but it is always tricky balancing all the health needs with available funds.
“Let’s say you decide to more surgeries in the evenings and weekends, you now need support staff to clean the ORs, you need in-patient beds, you need staff and nurses to take care of patients, you need pathologists to analyze results, you need all the equipment in place,” Belanger said. “So it’s actually very complex to do a change like that.”
The institute’s report focuses on the time between a patient’s diagnosis as needing surgery to the time the surgery occurs. But Belanger said it doesn’t measure such things as the referral from a family physician to a specialist. He said Alberta has been doing well on that score, in part by using a new streamlined referral system for some cancers.
As for other types of procedures and tests, the institute’s report showed Alberta to have made substantial reductions in waits for bypass surgery the past few years. The province has also maintained times at or ahead of the national average for hip and knee replacements, hip fracture repairs and radiation therapy, though delays have been worsening for MRIs, CT scans and cataract surgery.
Critics have suggested the results should be much better considering Alberta consistently spends more on health care, per capita, than virtually every other province. The new provincial budget that will be unveiled Thursday is expected to again increase health spending, though at a lower percentage than usual.
• Hip replacement: 90 per cent of patients treated within 209 days. Average time was 93 days.
• Knee replacement: 90 per cent of patients treated within 237 days. Average time was 106 days.
• Hip fracture repair: 90 per cent of patients treated within 59 hours. Average time was 22 hours.
• Cataract surgery: 90 per cent of patients treated within 224 days. Average time was 87 days.
• Bypass surgery: 90 per cent of patients treated within 41 days. Average time was six days.
• Radiation therapy: 90 per cent of patients treated within 20 days. Average time was seven days.
• CT scan: 90 per cent of patients treated within 56 days. Average time was 17 days.
• MRI scan: 90 per cent of patients treated within 172 days. Average time was 90 days.
• Bladder cancer surgery: 90 per cent of patients treated within 70 days. Average time was 28 days.
• Colorectal cancer surgery: 90 per cent of patients treated within 70 days. Average time was 27 days.
• Breast cancer surgery: 90 per cent of patients treated within 50 days. Average time was 20 days.
• Lung cancer surgery: 90 per cent of patients treated within 62 days. Average time was 31 days.
• Prostate cancer surgery: 90 per cent of patients treated within 109 days. Average time was 43 days. [Emphasis added]
I pay too many taxes to have those numbers showing up. This is insane, disrespectful and I would say genocidal.
[Refer also to:
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Slide from Ernst presentations
2011: Frac Company Trican Donates $5 Million to Fight Childhood Cancer
Image by FrackingCanada