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British Columbia announces new surgical registry

VICTORIA – Patients, surgeons and health authorities will have better data and information to make the better treatment planning decisions with the launch of the BC Surgical Patient Registry (SPR), a database that will track patients waiting for surgery throughout the province.

“This comprehensive program will ensure patients are prioritized for surgery in a standardized way,” said BC Health Minister George Abbott. “We are acting on our throne speech commitment by creating this registry that will give patients more control over their surgical options, and surgeons and health authorities more current and accurate information in making decisions about when surgeries should be scheduled, and will improve public reporting of wait times. Health authorities will also be better able to track patients who are waiting for their surgery and monitor their wait times.”

Until now, there has been no consistent provincial approach for prioritizing patients on wait lists in British Columbia. With the new SPR, the surgeon will fill out a standardized assessment tool, where the surgeon actively assesses the patient’s need. By having patients across British Columbia measured using the same criteria, better decisions can be made regarding the surgical need of a patient against all patients requiring the same procedure.

The progressive implementation of the registry is now under way and is expected to be fully operational by Jan. 1, 2008. The registry is part of a broader initiative – the BC Provincial Surgical Services Project – to improve surgical care throughout the province. The steering committee overseeing the initiative includes representation from the Ministry of Health, health authorities, practising surgeons, the British Columbia Medical Association, the UBC Faculty of Medicine and the Medical Services Commission. Surgeons from the around the province are also involved in surgical working groups in support of the program.

“The patient registry allows information on surgical wait lists to be more accurate and current,” said Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, president of the BCMA. “This means patients, as well as their family and physician, will now have a better idea of their placement on the wait list and potential waiting time.”

Access to and use of information from the SPR will be in strict compliance with provincial legislative requirements on privacy and security, and related regional health authority privacy and security policies.

British Columbia’s surgical patient registry is a key component of government’s wait time strategy as the Province continues to increase the number of surgeries performed. The registry also supports the provincial government’s Pacific Leadership Agenda in helping to improve the health of our citizens and renew our public health-care system.

For example, between 2001/02 and 2005/06, the number of knee replacements increased by 85 per cent and hip replacements by 55 percent. About 75 percent of elective surgeries on the wait list are done in just over three months. About half of all surgeries are done immediately and are never wait-listed because they are determined to be emergency or urgent cases.

The surgical patient registry is also part of B.C.’s eHealth strategy that will give patients access to safer, higher-quality services through the timely availability of their health information; and will give care providers the correct and necessary information.

Surgical wait times are published on the Ministry of Health website at