Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Graydon Smith is applauding Ontario’s move to partner with private surgical and diagnostic centres to help alleviate surgical backlogs in Ontario hospitals and add capacity to the system.
“It’s an opportunity to reduce the surgical backlog throughout the province and it’s one opportunity that we absolutely need to take. Locally, I think we’ll see this evolve over time,” said Smith, adding that as time goes on “the scope will increase and the opportunty to allow for more centres to be developed will be there, and I think that’s where locally we may see a change in the future.”
As the government significantly expands the number of surgeries being done with the help of these clinics, 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, according to a press release issue Monday by Premier Doug Ford’s office.
“When it comes to your health, the status quo is no longer acceptable,” stated 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.”
According to the province, it’s plan will be rolled out in the following three steps:
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. As a next step, the government will introduce legislation in February that will, if passed, allow existing community diagnostic centres to conduct more MRI and CT scanning so that people can access publicly funded diagnostic services faster and closer to home. Starting in 2024, this next step will also expand surgeries for hip and knee replacements. Legislative changes will also, if passed, strengthen oversight of community surgical settings so that patients can continue to expect to receive the world class care they know and deserve and provide the province with more flexibility to continue to expand access to more surgeries and further reduce wait times. 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.”
As the government shortens wait times using community surgical and diagnostic centres, 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 that are being referred, ensuring people get the surgery they need as quickly as possible.
“This is about being able to walk into a facility and get the care that you need by expert professionals and walking out that door having paid with nothing more than your OHIP card…” said Smith, adding that it’s not a new concept, it’s being done in places like Quebec and BC.
From the province:
- 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. Further information on surgical wait times is available here.
- 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 with a focus on areas with the greatest reduction in services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Ontario’s surgical recovery strategy prioritizes patients waiting longer than recommended in clinical guidelines. In 2022/23, the government continues to offer premiums to hospitals to support completion of over 200,000 surgeries and procedures.
- 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.
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