With the province aiming to have all surgeries done within six months, the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region is getting there.
"The region has been working with our surgeons, the OR team -- our whole group has been working as part of a provincial strategy to reduce wait times,” health region communications director Doug Dahl said.
The surgery wait time goal states that all surgeries need to be done within six months by April, and by within three months by a year from then -- goals Dahl said the health region’s “hopeful” they’ll be able to reach.
At 74 people waiting for surgeries for more than six months between June 1 and Nov. 30, they still have a ways to go.
But, he notes, 94 per cent of Prince Albert Parkland Health Region (PAPHR) surgeries were done within six months -- a four per cent lead over the provincial average during this timeframe.
Erasing this six per cent deficit will come with its challenges. In fact, challenges of the past few months have plateaued prior progress, Dahl said.
“We had some physicians away, (and) we had also had some issues at the Victoria Hospital with bed capacity,” he explained.
“With the hospital full we had to cancel a number of surgeries in November, early December, so that has put us a little bit behind where we'd like to be in trying to be on track to make that target.”
Between November and early December, more than 20 surgeries were cancelled. Before then, the power outage of June sparked the cancellation of four days’ worth of surgeries, out o concern about having proper airflow and other power-related concerns.
The surgeries canceled weren’t life-threatening ones, Dahl noted, but even non-emergency electives are integral to get done in a timely manner.
“Any time someone is requiring a surgery, it means something is not right,” he said. “Whether they're waiting for a knee replacement or waiting for a gallbladder surgery or they're waiting to get a cataract removed. All of those come with limitations on regular life ... Waiting is really -- it's not an acceptable thing. We want to get people through as fast as possible.”
The region has been working with our surgeons, the OR team -- our whole group has been working as part of a provincial strategy to reduce wait times. - PAPHR communications director Doug Dahl
Several efforts have been enacted over the past few years, with numerous efforts made to make Victoria Hospital more efficient.
“We've done a lot of things around working with our surgeons, family physicians, with our (operating room) team around scheduling of surgeries, referrals, trying to find ways to make sure we're maximizing our operating theatre so we're working at capacity as much as possible,” he explained.
"I think we're at a point where it's not about having more staff or more physicians, but it's really about how do we get better and more efficient and effective, and to make sure that we're utilizing all of our resources, including the (operating room) time and the nurses and everybody to their maximum capacity.”
Linking various health professionals together in a more cohesive teamwork environment has also helped, he noted.
In cases like knee replacements, maybe they need surgery, but they need physiotherapy beforehand, Dahl said. In this and similar such instances, things are better streamlined to ensure the steps are aligned.
“Working with a team of people across the spectrum has been a big part of bringing those wait lists down,” he said.
So far, the statistics prove that the PAPHR’s efforts are paying off. Dahl said that two years ago, there were more than 500 people waiting more than six months for surgery.
Since the latest round of statistics came out in November, they’ve gone down from 75 people waiting more than six months to between 65 and 70, Dahl said.
“We want to get that number cleared off and down to zero by March 31,” Dahl said.
"We're hopeful that we will be very close to the target, if we don't make it, but we have confidence and everybody is working really hard to get to that target -- and then we'll work hard beyond this year to get to the target of three months by March 31, 2014.”