Health report questioned

Manitoba wait-time numbers differ widely


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Winnipeg health officials are questioning the accuracy and reliability of a surgical and therapeutic wait-times survey released Monday by a right-wing think-tank.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/12/2011 (3903 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg health officials are questioning the accuracy and reliability of a surgical and therapeutic wait-times survey released Monday by a right-wing think-tank.

The Fraser Institute surveyed physicians representing a dozen specialties in 10 Canadian provinces. The report showed a jump in Manitoba average wait times to 25 weeks this year from 17.5 in 2010.

It pegged the wait time for elective cardiovascular surgery in Manitoba at a 33.5 weeks — more than double the wait in the next-highest province (Nova Scotia, 16 weeks). It also found Manitobans had the longest waits for cataract removal, the second-longest waits for general surgery and one of the longest for orthopedic surgery.

Genaro Molina / McClatchy News Service archives The Fraser Institute says Manitobans wait eight weeks for an MRI, but the government says it's 13 weeks.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority questioned the report’s validity Monday, noting only 18 per cent of Manitoba physicians responded.

WRHA spokeswoman Heidi Graham said the study measures physician perceptions rather than tracking actual wait times. “We don’t think the numbers, as a result of that, are all that reliable,” she said.

Accurate wait-time information is available on the Manitoba Health website, Graham said. There, the median wait time for elective cardiovascular surgery is said to be 39 days.

According to the Fraser Institute, the wait for cataract removal in Manitoba is 27.3 weeks after a patient first sees a specialist. According to the government website, the wait for cataract surgery is 13 weeks in Winnipeg and as long as 20 weeks at the Portage District General Hospital.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald was not available for comment on Monday, a cabinet spokeswoman said.

Progressive Conservative health critic Myrna Driedger said government officials always try to downplay bad-news reports, but she thinks the doctor survey reflects the calls she gets from many Manitobans decrying lengthy waits for medical procedures.

“It may be a smaller number of doctors putting forward information, but it’s telling a story,” she said. “And the story is that the waits for treatment after you see a specialist are really, really long…”

Driedger said she’s especially concerned about the median wait for treatment once patients see a specialist. The Fraser Institute report says it was 17.5 weeks in Manitoba, second only to Saskatchewan’s 19 weeks.

On the other hand, the report said Manitobans had the second-shortest wait (next to Ontarians) to see a specialist after being referred to one by their GP (7.5 weeks), a number officials here apparently don’t track.

In a few areas, the survey had Manitoba doing better than it is, Graham said. For instance, the average wait for an MRI, according to government data, is 13 weeks. According to the doctors’ survey, it is eight.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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