box10.gif (1299 bytes)







Government & policy

BC invests $23.4 million for more surgeries, MRIs

VANCOUVER – B.C. Health Minister Kevin Falcon announced that health authorities across the province will receive an additional $23.4 million in patient-focused funding to do thousands more day surgeries, inpatient procedures and MRI exams.
“Up to 33,000 patients will benefit from more timely, accessible care as we increase selected surgical and medical procedures performed across the province by up to 23 percent, using less than 1 percent of the acute care budget,” said Falcon. “Patient-focused funding is one of the best options to keep our health system sustainable by raising productivity and improving health quality.”
Falcon said that while the province leads Canada in increasing access to surgeries that are most in demand – such as cardiac, hip replacement and cataracts, this funding will specifically target patients waiting for common procedures with the greatest need – such as back and spine surgery, bladder surgery and hernia repair.
This includes $20.4 million for surgical and medical procedures and $3 million for MRI exams. With this first wave of funding, health authorities are expected to complete up to 14,000 more MRI exams and up to 20,000 more surgeries and medical procedures this fiscal year.
“The most important aspect of patient-focused funding is just that – the patient focus,” said Dr. Nigel Murray, president and CEO of Fraser Health. “Health authorities will be targeting more MRI procedures and more surgeries across the province to address a growing patient need. Fraser Health, like all other health authorities, welcomes the opportunity to use patient-focused funding as a vehicle to encourage more efficient use of our healthcare resources and continuously improve the quality of our service delivery.”
Recognizing demand for diagnostic tests will grow as surgeries increase, the first wave of funding includes MRIs. However, health authorities will be expected to implement improved prioritization standards based on the urgency of a patient’s medical needs.
“British Columbia leads Canada when it comes to surgical wait times, and we want to go even further in reducing these waits through patient-focused funding,” said Falcon. “We have increased the amount of MRI exams by 172 percent since 2001 and expect to see a further increase of up to 15 percent this fiscal year with this new funding.”
Patient-focused funding is a method of tying the money health authorities receive to the quantity and quality of healthcare services they provide rather than the traditional approach of block funding. It provides financial incentives to health authorities to increase volumes of services delivered and to promote a shift from inpatient services to same-day surgical procedures where appropriate. This will help reduce wait times in high-demand areas.
“This funding will significantly improve access for patients and provide more quality care in several key areas,” said Dr. Les Vertesi, executive director of the BC Health Services Purchasing Organization. “We are building on the success of pilot projects in the Lower Mainland, where thousands of patients have already benefited from reduced wait times for surgery by expanding into all health authorities.”
The HSPO directs dollars based on recommendations from clinical experts from each health authority combined with waitlist information from the provincial surgical database. For example, hernia repair was identified as one of the operating room priorities by Fraser Health, while experts in Vancouver Coastal Health identified non-urgent cancer-related procedures. In some cases this targeted funding is helping to move procedures from an inpatient setting into a less costly and more patient-friendly day procedure environment.
“One of the strengths of this initiative has been the collaboration between surgeons, the health authorities and the ministry,” said Dr. Nancy Van Laeken, head, Providence Health Care’s Department of Surgery. “That has ensured that this innovative approach to funding will target the areas of greatest need, and that we are all moving forward together toward the common goal of providing our patients with the best quality of care and the most timely access to surgical services.”
The investment is part of the $250 million in additional funding announced in April that will be used to implement province-wide patient-focused funding. By 2012-13, the proportion of money tied to patient-focused funding is expected to reach 20 percent of eligible healthcare spending while the other 80 percent will remain as block funding. This includes $80 million in 2010-11 and $170 million in 2011-12.
Health authorities have access to this money on top of their projected budget increase of 15 percent over the next three years and will continue to enhance service quality and patient care. This blended approach provides the benefit of the stability of the old funding method and the incentives created by the new approach.

Posted October 7, 2010