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Wait lists

Quebec hospitals urged to increase surgeries

MONTREAL – A Quebec association representing health care establishments says hospitals should increase the productivity of their operating rooms by at least 5%, or an additional 22,000 surgeries a year.

Thousands of Quebec patients in need of surgery have been waiting for treatment for more than six months, said Lise Denis, head of the Association québécoise d’établissements de santé et de services sociaux, which represents hospitals, nursing homes and community health care centres.

Improvements, like better distribution of equipment, would increase productivity and cut down on wait times by ramping up the number of surgeries performed each day, Denis said, as reported in the Montreal Gazette.

The association was to meet earlier this month with hospital medical chiefs and others from its 135-member association to discuss results obtained during a tour of Quebec hospitals this spring.

Initiated by the Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists in conjunction with the provincial Health Department, the hospital visits tried to identify problems and potential solutions to the six-month surgery wait times.

“The most unpleasant thing a surgeon has to do is to (tell) a patient that surgery has been cancelled or postponed,” said Gaétan Barrette, the head of the Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists. “We want the system to work and that’s why we did this.”

About 446,000 surgeries were performed in Quebec in 2007.The specialists contend that by managing existing operating rooms better, hospitals could carry out an additional 50,000 operations a year and eliminate a backlog of more than 30,000 patients, which means waiting lists would drop to three months.

“If that happens, it would be a mini-revolution in this province,” Barrette said.

Barrette’s group visited 16 operating hospitals and another seven visits are slated for this fall. The group’s recommendations are tailored to each hospital “and they are binding,” Barrette said.

Some facilities are to improve their management of the ORs, or invest in additional equipment and personnel such as auxiliary nurses. “Many (surgeries) are cancelled because of a lack of equipment, which is total nonsense,” Barrette said, referring to small surgical instruments that need lengthy sterilization.

But health critics also say that many hospitals don’t use all of their operating rooms, mostly because of a lack of personnel. Two operating rooms at Sacré Coeur Hospital, for example, have gone unused for months. In February, to reduce its surgery wait lists, Sacré Coeur started renting an operating room at Rockland MD, a private health clinic.