Shorter wait lists goal of health-care plan in province

  • Oct. 28, 2017 1:30 a.m.

By Dale Bass / Kamloops This Week

Health authorities in the province are working with surgeons to make wait lists shorter and more efficient. Dr. Andy Hamilton, executive medical director for surgery for Interior Health, said the goal is to increase access to needed surgeries, understand who is waiting for them, why and for how long and provide better feedback to patients.

“We provide a horrible system,” Hamilton said of the way surgeries are now booked, leaving it to surgeons to do their own scheduling. He said that can lead to scrambling at the doctor’s office to fill a sudden vacancy on the list or moving someone up just to get them to stop calling, asking when their operation will take place.

Hamilton said the system, which will run in collaboration with participating surgeons, would involve coding surgeries in five levels, from the chronic that must be done soonest, like cancer, to the less urgent surgeries that can wait.

“It’s done in order based on clinical need,” he said.

If it works well, Hamilton said, it could see someone on a wait list with one surgeon contacted to fill a vacancy of another, if they are agreeable. Some patients might not want to change surgeons, Hamilton said, but the hope is to have the flexibility to minimize the waiting times.

In Kelowna, for example, orthopedic surgeons are sharing their lists to ensure people get in for their operations in a more timely and efficient way, Hamilton said.

“It’s a big change for surgeons, some of them. It’s taking autonomy away from them,” he said, noting he is finding younger surgeons are often more accepting of the change because they have a better work-life balance than “old guys like me.”

Hamilton said information gathered will expand. Booking forms don’t allow for factors that aren’t necessarily health-related, but might be operation timing-related, such as patients who have to fly to a hospital for surgery and need to make bookings, or seniors who are caring for other seniors and need to have supports set up to cover for them during their own recovery. A notification system is also part of the plan, so that once a surgery is booked, the patient will receive an electronic confirmation that can help them plan