Wait time strategy short-sighted

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In an effort to cut hospital wait-times, the government is targeting five specific surgeries for increased funding: cancer care, heart operations, cataract removal, hip and knee replacement and diagnostic imaging.

The cuts are part of a federal-provincial deal established in 2004. Admittedly, the program is a good start towards recognizing the need to reduce waiting times, but in its current state the program will pose significant challenges, both immediately and in the long run.

It’s understandable that, at some point, a clear strategy should develop in order to address the problem, but right now the government is allowing life-threatening surgeries to fall by the wayside.

Some surgeries are inherently more serious and urgent than others, but the method the government as chosen to deal with the wait problem is much too crude. Choosing five surgeries to receive funding, and then ignoring the big picture, will not ultimately improve an ailing health care system. It seems that the government is creating an easy—read:temporary—solution to show voters that the wait is decreasing, and attempting to give the public tangible and concrete examples and numbers while ignoring the overall ramifications. This is only a cosmetic band-aid solution to a much larger issue.

The treatments isolated target baby-boomers and geriatric populations, and although they represent a large group of voters, they may not reflect the needs of Canadian hospitals.

Hospitals used to have significantly more freedom on how they would use their funding but now are handcuffed by increased government restrictions—which may be detrimental to specialized surgeons, heir patients, and the entire health care system. Some hospitals need increased attention in areas other than those targeted by this program, but the government is ignoring those needs. With the focus on targeted procedures, other necessary operations will be put off, which may mean the closure of certain departments and a longer wait-time for all other surgeries. While it is understandable that the government must start somewhere to focus funding, and search for a solution to the wait-times problem, more research should have been done into the consequences for patients waiting for other surgeries right now, and the effect on the entire system down the road.

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