Nearly all surgical wait times have declined across the Prairie Mountain Health region compared to this time last year, according to a provincial website that details wait time information.
So far this year, patients needing hip and knee procedures have an average wait time of 13 weeks. That’s down 11 weeks compared to July of last year, when patients waited 24 weeks.
Brandon Regional Health Centre is the only facility that performs the surgeries in the region and is well below the Pan-Canadian benchmark of 26 weeks.
For comparison, Boundary Trails Health Centre in Winkler has a wait time of 27 weeks, but does perform more procedures than Brandon.
Only three surgeries are reported to Manitoba Health — hip, knee and cataract procedures.
PMH CEO Penny Gilson said a number of changes have led to the decreased wait times.
In the past, Gilson said all patients waiting for surgeries were included in the reports. However, PMH has changed its requirements to exclude patients who choose to forgo surgeries for personal reasons.
"If someone refuses surgery for personal reasons — i.e. they go south for the winter and don’t want to have surgery even though we’ve given them a date — then they shouldn’t be included in our waits because they’re choosing to wait longer," Gilson said.
Outsourcing less complex surgeries to smaller, rural hospitals has also eased the burden, providing more OR time for doctors who are willing to travel.
"We continue to utilize space outside of Brandon for those things that can be safely and appropriately done at smaller sites, which frees up OR time in Brandon for those more complex cases," Gilson said.
The regional health authority added more equipment, specifically for knee and hip replacements, to shorten the turnaround between operations, Gilson said.
Last year, Minnedosa was the most efficient hospital in the province when it came to cataract surgeries and while the wait times have doubled — from four weeks last year to eight this year — it is still the quickest in Manitoba.
Cataract surgery wait times in Brandon have decreased by two weeks — from 13 to 11 — while Swan Valley saw a dramatic decrease — from 22 to 11.
The benchmark for cataract surgery is 16 weeks.
Gilson said the jump at Minnedosa isn’t surprising as the smaller hospitals tend to be more volatile.
"There are times such as summer vacation or unexpected human resources challenges that can result in a blip or short-term increase in wait times," Gilson said. "We don’t get too concerned about the short term, it’s about meeting our long-term targets. The goal is to always be within the minimum of the target set by the province or better if we can with the resources available."
While wait times have gone down, one thing that hasn’t changed is the status of a new health centre between Neepawa and Minnedosa that could help expand the types of surgeries performed in the region and provide an ultramodern facility to attract doctors.
Gilson said the facility is the top priority capital project for PMH.
Last year, the proposal, which at the time was recently revised, was undergoing a comprehensive review.
Jodee Mason, a spokeswoman for Manitoba Health, said the centre is still in the review stage with "nothing new to report at this time."
Mason said reducing wait times is a key government priority.
"The minister (Erin Selby) has very recently written to PMH CEO Penny Gilson expressing the province’s appreciation to all staff in PMH for their tireless work to reduce wait times and make improvements that are seen for those accessing the services."
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