News Release Archive


A new study of the wait times for elective medical and surgical
procedures in Nova Scotia shows most patients are waiting less
time than they did four years ago, and more procedures are being
done than in the past.

The study, called Reporting Health Performance - Elective
procedure waiting times in Nova Scotia 1992-1996, tracks the
waiting times for the top 100 elective procedures from 1992 to
1996. A total of 347,000 services were tracked --- representing
75 per cent of all major procedures in the province over the
period --- including a number of procedures from each surgical
specialty and common diagnostic procedures such as scopes.

"Information contained in the report is a good example of some of
the data we need to make sensible decisions, and to manage the
system well," said Health Minister Bernie Boudreau. "A quality
health system depends on timely and relevant information. The
report is a valuable tool to help measure how the health care
system is serving Nova Scotians. It is another step in the right

Approximately 35 million pieces of data from Medical Services
Insurance (MSI) billings were analysed to produce the report,
which tracks the period between when the probable decision to
perform an elective procedure was made to the day the procedure
was performed. That period is compared from one year to the next
for consistency. A procedure typically requires a booking at a
hospital. An elective procedure is defined as one that treats a
condition posing no immediate risk to the patient.

The report is an important tool for tracking trends, and is one
aspect of advanced monitoring of waiting times. Monitoring is a
critical step needed to help identify problems, and to lead to
potential ideas and approaches for solutions.

Some of the findings of the report include:

-  most waiting times have dropped; patients are waiting less
   time for elective procedures than they were four years ago;

-  overall, the number of procedures performed in the province
   has increased over the past four years, from 67,000 in 1992-93
   to approximately 72,000 last year;

-  despite a steady increase in the number of orthopaedic
   procedures over the past four years, waiting times in this
   area have decreased;

-  many factors can affect wait times; some examples could be
   government policy, decision-making at hospitals (i.e. maximum
   use of resources with increased admissions the day of surgery,
   not before, and more day surgeries), the supply and
   distribution of specialists and referral patterns from family
   doctors to specialists, an aging population, changes in
   technology, new options for treatment and societal

-  the number of cataract procedures done yearly has risen by 33
   per cent since 1992-93; there is increasing demand for joint
   replacements (knee replacements have increased by 50 per cent
   over the past four years), while the trend in waiting time for
   the procedure is downward.

The report also points out some areas where improvements can be
made. For example, ear, nose and throat surgery show increased
waiting times.

Providing elective medical and surgical procedures on a timely
basis is an important aspect of a quality health care system, the
study states. Some steps that could reduce overall waiting times
for procedures are increasing the commitment to day surgery,
using same day admissions whenever possible, expanding the use of
pre-hospital work-ups, assuring appropriate distribution of
specialists, and developing triage systems for resource-intensive
procedures such as joint replacements.

"For the Department of Health, regional health boards, hospitals,
physicians and others in he health care field, this report is a
launching point for a broader discussion on how the resources of
the health system are being used, and how the health care system
is serving the public," said Mr. Boudreau. "We need to closely
examine data like this to see how it can help in the delivery of
a quality health care system, and quality health care, to Nova


Contact: Lori MacLean  902-424-5025

trp                    Nov. 18, 1996 - 12:40 p.m.