Feds announce project for pediatric
Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pictured)
earlier this month announced the federal government will invest $2.6
million in a Wait Time Guarantee pilot project for children in need of
“Ultimately, today’s initiative will lead to a Patient Wait Time
Guarantee for all children,” said Harper.
The 15-month pilot project, scheduled to start this month (January
2007), will include the development of the first pan-Canadian information system to measure the burden of waiting times for children
who need surgery.
It will also include the development of a clinical recourse
plan for children whose surgical wait times fall beyond the clinical
access guidelines that were proposed by the National Child and Youth
Health Coalition and endorsed by the Paediatric Surgical Chiefs of
The initial focus of the project will be on six key surgical areas:
cardiac, cancer, neurology, sight, spinal deformity, and dental
treatment requiring anaesthesia. Within one year, one of these areas
will be chosen to test a guarantee that will include recourse for
patients who are waiting too long.
“As a parent, I know there’s nothing more heart-wrenching than seeing a
child suffer,” said the Prime Minister. “Because they’re Canada’s
future, our children deserve the best medical care possible delivered as
promptly as possible.”
The project, which is the fourth such wait-time guarantee initiative
announced to date by Canada’s New Government, will be conducted in
partnership with Canada’s 16 paediatric academic health science centres
under the leadership of the Paediatric Surgical Chiefs of Canada and The
Hospital for Sick Children.
The announcement generated criticism from some provincial and federal
Ontario Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Marie Bountrogianni said
Harper should be “ashamed” for neglecting to consult the provinces
before unveiling the pilot project.
Harper made the announcement at the Hospital for Sick Children in
Toronto – a few blocks away from the Ontario legislature – and was
joined at the news conference by Health Minister Tony Clement, a former
Ontario cabinet minister.
“Many children do not receive the care they need in a timely manner,”
Harper said. “Too often, they hear the words that haunt the entire
Canadian healthcare system: ‘Sorry, you’ll just have to wait.”’
Wait times, however, are a provincial responsibility, said Bountrogianni,
who was angry that the federal Conservatives failed to notify the
provinces about a project she dismissed as being far too small to have
much impact on wait times in Canada.
“We weren’t invited to the announcement, and I can almost understand
why: it’s such an insignificant amount of money,” Bountrogianni said.
“This is not the way to do intergovernmental relations in this country.”
The Ontario government has spent $611 million over the last two years on
its own plan to reduce wait times, which is expected to play a prominent
role in this fall’s provincial election campaign.
Hiring more nurses and doctors would be a much more effective way of
reducing wait times, said NDP child care critic Olivia Chow.
“Children cannot wait if they need surgery – having a pilot project and
then deciding what to do is really redundant,” Chow said. “We need
healthcare workers today to shorten the wait times for children, not in
five years’ time.” Harper acknowledged the pilot project by itself
wouldn’t solve the thorny problem of wait times in Canadian hospitals.
“We’re not going to snap our fingers and say today’s the day that wait
times are solved,” he said. “It’s obviously going to take some time.”
The provinces manage the existing program for reducing waiting times in
five key areas, including joint replacements, heart and cataract
operations and diagnostic imaging.
Harper rejected suggestions he and Clement devised their announcement to
avoid having anything to do with Ontario’s Liberal government in setting
up the project.
“The project in question was actually put together by the 16 pediatric
hospitals themselves . . . what the federal government is announcing is
their support for that initiative,” he said.
“If the province of Ontario also wanted to participate, I’m sure they
would welcome that participation.”
The federal Conservatives have already announced similar wait-time
initatives focused on diabetes and prenatal care for First Nations