Waiting for Care: Operational Research and Wait List Management in Canada

John Blake
Department of Industrial Engineering
Dalhousie University

Abstract

"Wait times for surgery in Canada at an all-time high: study" announces a CBC summary (http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2007/10/15/waittimes-fraser.html accessed October 17, 2007) of a Fraser Institute Report on wait times for medical services. In Canada, as elsewhere, wait times for medically necessary treatments are a newsworthy item. A myriad of solutions have been advanced, most of which suggest the fix for the problem will be extraordinarily expensive. In 2005, the federal government, in partnership with the provincial ministries of health, announced a $41 billion initiative to reduce waits, specifically targeted at orthopaedics, cataract surgery, cancer, cardiac care, and diagnostic imaging. Recent initiatives announced by the federal government have promised more funding for wait list management and wait time guarantees. However, the relationship between increased health care funding and wait times is complex; there is some evidence from international experience and from time series analysis of spending in Canada that adding more money to the system either has no effect on clinical throughput or actually causes it to decrease. Despite the heat (and some would argue little light) generated, concern over wait times for health care is not a new phenomenon; specific instances have been noted in the academic literature for well over fifteen years; reports in the popular press are legion. In this paper, we will review wait list measurement and management in Canada, with particular emphasis on the role of operational research within this problem domain.

Feb 26, 2008

Park Town Hotel, Birch Room

Cocktails 5:30, Dinner 6:00, Presentation 7:00

Tickets $20

For more information contact:

Kent Kostuk 244-3295 k.kostuk@fcl.ca

Winfried Grassmann 966-4898 grassman@cs.usask.ca