Thursday, July 14, 2011

Waiting Line Reality Check

One of the issues that keeps bothering me is the problem of ending up on a waiting list in Canada with a painful but non-emergent problem. You know, those stories about long waits for joint replacements? Although, knock wood, I don't need surgery, I've gone through enough with my faulty parts to make me identify with patients in pain who don't want to wait for relief.

I was fortunate to be able to interview a Canadian physician whose specialty is roughly like an osteopath -- So he sees people for these painful conditions.

When I asked Dr. King about the problem of wait times, he assumed I meant wait times to get in to see him. In a similar fashion to the prioritizing in hospitals for surgical wait times, Dr. King tries to prioritize the cases that are most urgent. Patients who report being in severe pain can see him within a few days, but it can take a month or two for others.

If one of his patients may need a hip replacement (not a procedure he performs), he tries to anticipate their need for surgery. He'll encourage them to get on a surgeon's waiting list when he thinks a patient is likely to require a hip replacement in the future.

But what about when a patient is having a hard time functioning because of the pain? What kind of flexibility is there with the system? Is a hip replacement simply always low priority if it's not due to a fracture? No, according to Dr. King, it's possible to go to the front of the waiting line if a patient is in severe pain or can't function. Apparently, a specialist can successfully put the pressure on to help out a patient.

I took a look at the handy dandy wait time website for British Columbia: For hip replacement surgeries, when I checked the average waits for all of BC, I found 50% are done within about 3 months and 90% are done within about 7 months. There was considerable variation in wait times depending on the doctor a patient chose to see. The website showed some doctors were able to perform 90% of their patients’ hip replacements within a few weeks while other doctors showed 90% receiving the transplant within 14 months.

I also noticed variation in the time to receive some procedures depending on whether treatment was being sought in rural British Columbia or the Vancouver area. Wait times for back surgeries in one of the rural areas were running 90% done within 10-12 months and 50% done in less than 2 months. However, in the Vancouver area, 90% were done within about 4 months with 50% being completed within 3 weeks.

Another complaint one hears frequently is about the wait times for MRIs. Dr. King concurred. "The MRI is a real problem in this country." That is a medical service which can legally be purchased privately, if the patient can afford it. Dr. King said it costs $800-$1,000 to pay privately for a MRI in Vancouver. I spoke to a Vancouver neurologist, Dr. Cashman, who also expressed dismay over the wait for MRIs. When trying to diagnose ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), he wants to be able to get a patient in for a MRI right away. But the wait can be impossibly long. On the other hand, when the MRI is being ordered for a patient with a brain tumor, the service is provided promptly.

That being said, both Dr. King and Dr. Cashman like the Canadian health care system very much. In fact, they both came to Canada because they preferred the Canadian system to that of their native countries -- Great Britain and the United States respectively. Clearly, there are trade-offs to be considered with every health care system.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. thanks a lot for your valuable sharing,right from the beginning till end it was really very informative.I can witness the experience and steps you have taken to accomplish this wonderful work.
    Breast Implant

  3. I know that Osteopathic medicine is a branch of the medical profession in the United States. From this post I have got the info of the Canadian health care system and this impression also supportive to me. Thanks for sharing this content here.
    effective osteopath's treatment

  4. Good information about the osteopathic medicine!! If one of his patients may need a hip replacement, he tries to anticipate their need for surgery. Thiss is a good post which I love very much and can say that it would be helpful to us all. Take it up.
    Swollen Puffy Eyes

  5. Thank you for choosing ETCOE for your orthopedic care. If you have any questions, always feel free to contact our office and our trained staff will assist you in any way possible.
    Hip Surgery Joint Replacement

  6. Thanks a lot! It is definitely an awesome site Buy Chloramphenicol Online

  7. This serious issue creeks no further postponement. It is commonly realized that health care in our nation likens with independent company, and all members are intrigued, similar to each business, in getting the most elevated potential benefits.Urinalysis CPT code

  8. I high appreciate this post. It’s hard to find the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it! would you mind updating your blog with more information

  9. The cost of the inclusion, yet what is secured, what therapeutic consideration they can get, what medicine will be paid for, and what sort of medications and care the health care coverage approach they are going to buy will cover.

  10. A few factors on the double are pushing telemedicine and m-wellbeing union markets over the world. blis m18 ingredient supplier

  11. Since homosexuality isn't a turmoil it pursues that it can't be dealt with.Brian Holm lawyer california

  12. The idea behind this, is that a private insurance companies are more financially efficient than the federal government, and should be able to stretch the money allocated to give you more benefits. medicare insurance brokers near me