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Ministry of Health
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Reducing wait times for surgeries

Health authorities are working with the Ministry of Health on short- and long-term plans to address unprecedented demand for surgeries. Short-term strategies have included an additional $25 million in funding to increase surgeries in 2015-16 for people who were waiting longer than 40 weeks, and the additional $25 million to address surgical backlogs in the coming year.

Longer-term work is already underway at 11 hospital sites in the province, where health authorities are beginning to implement a number of new measures to improve surgical waitlist management, including:

  • Providing better information to – and more frequent communication with – patients while they wait for surgery;
  • Streamlining the management of surgical services – both before, during and after surgery – including standardizing how surgeries are prioritized, making more efficient use of operating room time and staff, using pooled referrals among surgeons, and using  standardized care pathways for patients;
  • Adding capacity in ORs to improve wait times;
  • Working with surgeons to improve waitlist management and surgical bookings;
  • Testing electronic solutions to enhance the flow of information for booking surgery; and;
  • Ensuring the necessary health human resources are in place, including post-secondary training to meet future demand.

These sites are also setting up systems to provide patients with clear information on the steps in the surgical journey, including a designated health authority point of contact for patients to have their questions answered while they wait for surgery, and to provide them with the information they need in a timely, proactive way.

Lessons learned from the 11 “early adopter” sites will inform a provincial waitlist management policy, and implementation of changes to improve the delivery of surgical services throughout the province.

Reducing wait times for MRI scans

Today’s announcement supports B.C.’s MRI strategy released in 2015 to help address increasing demand and existing waitlists. The strategy committed to ramping up the number of scans performed over four years, to reach 65,000 more procedures annually by 2019. Under the strategy, the Ministry of Health and health authorities are also examining improvements to the governance, service delivery and funding models for MRI programs, to establish an accessible, sustainable medical imaging system.

Ten hospitals will be getting new additional MRI machines in the next two to three years. Ridge Meadows Hospital and Vernon Jubilee Hospital will get their first MRI machines with today’s announcement, and Nanaimo Regional Hospital will get its second scanner. This is the second MRI machine for the Jim Pattison Outpatient and Surgical Centre, bringing the total for the Surrey Memorial Hospital site to three. The following hospitals have already received approval for new MRI machines: Fort St. John Hospital, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, Campbell River Hospital, Comox Valley Hospital, and Penticton Regional Hospital.

This announcement follows the arrival of a mobile MRI machine at University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George to support diagnostic imaging needs during its multi-million dollar MRI replacement project. The mobile MRI will be in use for approximately three to four months while a new MRI suite is constructed at UHNBC. 

Over the past decade, B.C. has acquired 16 new MRI machines for hospitals for a total of 25, a 178% increase. This has helped B.C. significantly increase the number of MRIs done in the public system – from 67,030 in 2004-05 to over 151,000 in 2015-16.

Health authorities will also provide more evidence-based guidance to physicians to help them order the best type of scan to meet each patient’s specific medical needs. MRI scans are important diagnostic tools. However, different types of medical imaging can be used to diagnose certain conditions. In some cases, an x-ray, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan may be more appropriate.

MRI is a safe and painless test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the body's organs and structures. MRIs are used to diagnose a number of medical conditions, including abnormalities of the brain, as well as tumours, cysts and soft-tissue injuries in other parts of the body.