Long term care wait times tops concerns by the Ontario Health Quality Council in its annual report

Long term care wait times topped concerns by the Ontario Health Quality Council in its annual report released yesterday.

The OHQC says average wait time for a long term care bed is now 105 days. If you are waiting while at home, its 173 days (or about six months). Wait times for long term care placement has tripled since the spring of 2005. The council does suggest that one in four people presently in a long term care have light care needs and could be cared for in an alternate setting if one were available.

Despite Ontario spending $60 million last year on its ER wait times strategy, one in four patients still spend more time in the emergency department than the recommended target. About 6 per cent of patients leave the emergency department before being seen.

Ontarians are making no progress on finding family doctors. About 730,000 Ontarians are still without a doctor, about half are actively looking. Only 53 per cent of Ontarians can see their doctor on the same day or next day when sick – nine out of 10 surveyed say they think waits are too long for an appointment. There has been no change in the percentage of Ontarians without a family doctor over the last three years.

Doctors are also picking up the pace of converting their patient records into electronic files. In 2007 only 26 per cent of doctors maintained electronic records. In 2009 it was 43 per cent – still not quite half.

The report is also critical of the government’s ability to alter the social determinants of health. “Progress has been stalled for the past three years addressing unhealthy behaviours that could lead to chronic diseases. (Coincidentally, the NDP’s France Gelinas introduced a private members bill yesterday calling for fast food restaurants to post the calorie count of items on their menu boards.)

Other key wait time initiatives have had mixed results. Wait times have decreased for cataract surgery as well as hip and knee replacements. About 95 per cent of elective cardiovascular procedures are done on time. The Council does say that wait times are still too high for CT, MRI and urgent surgeries. They offer the example of urgent cancer cases, of which only 53 per cent are completed within the two week target.

While some progress is being made on diabetes, the report says there is huge room for improvement as many people are not getting the right monitoring.

Despite four years of the Local Health Integration Networks, whose mandate it is to integrate the health system, the report found Ontario does a poor job of sharing information across the system. Physicians are reporting delays in getting information from hospitals and specialists, while only one quarter of patients who leave hospital feel they have all the information they need.

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