Ontario Wait Times
Frequently Asked Questions about Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Wait Times
What is a wait list?
A wait list is a list of people who need special medical care, such as :
- Cardiac (heart) surgery
- Hip and knee replacements.
- Special exams such as MRIs.
This list lets doctors decide who gets treatment first. Patients whose illness is more serious or life threatening, get treated first.
Note : Ontario does not have one wait list for all patients. Each doctor keeps a list of patients who need treatment.
What is a wait time?
A wait time is the amount of time you have to wait for your surgery or exam. Your wait is measured from the time your surgery or exam is booked until the time you receive it. If you need several surgeries or exams for your condition, each one may have its own wait time.
Why do we have wait times?
Wait times happen in Ontario because :
- There may be more patients than the health care system can treat at the same time.
- Our population is getting older and needs more health care.
- Doctors find new ways to diagnose and treat more illnesses. There may be more patients for a new procedure than the health care system can treat at the same time.
What is a reasonable wait time?
Wait times depend on the type of procedure and the patient’s situation. Ontario has developed wait times targets. These targets give you an idea of how long you might have to wait for a treatment.
Who goes on a wait list?
Anyone who needs a treatment that has a wait list is placed on the list, unless it is an emergency. Emergency patients are treated as quickly as possible.
How long will I wait?
How long you have to wait depends on :
- How serious your illness is. Patients with illnesses that are not considered life threatening may wait longer. That is because the hospital's operating room will be used for more serious cases first.
- How many other patients your surgeon has to treat. Some specialists have shorter wait times than others.
- How your hospital schedules patient treatment. This depends on their staff, equipment and patient facilities.
- How many other people in your community need treatment.
If I have a long wait time, what can I do?
- You can ask to see another specialist who has a shorter wait list.
- You can ask to go to another hospital, where you might be treated sooner.
- You might be able to have a treatment on short notice, if an opening becomes available.
Your doctor can talk with you about these options.
If your condition changes while you are waiting for treatment, let your doctor know and talk with your doctor. Your doctor can assess your illness and decide if waiting for treatment will affect your health.
Do better doctors have longer wait lists?
All doctors working in the province meet Ontario’s standards of training and ability when :
- The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (the the body that regulates the practice of medicine in Ontario to protect and serve the public interest) licenses them to practice medicine in Ontario, and
- When a hospital grants them privileges (i.e., makes the doctor a hospital staff member – this allows the doctor to treat a patient within that hospital).
There is no way to tell whether one doctor is better than another.
Some surgeons may have longer wait times because :
- They get more referrals from family doctors.
- They have less operating room time.
- They may have more complex cases to treat.
What treatments does the Ontario government track wait times for?
We track 14 adult health care service areas and 10 health care services for children and infants (paediatric) in Ontario :
Adult Health Care Service Areas
- Cancer procedures
- Cardiac (heart) surgery
- General surgery
- Gynaecologic (female reproductive system) surgery
- Neurosurgery (nervous system)
- Ophthalmic (eye) surgery
- Oral (mouth) and maxillofacial (upper jaw and face) surgery and dentistry
- Orthopaedic (e.g., muscles, joints, ligaments, etc.) surgery
- Otolaryngic (ears, nose and throat) surgery
- Plastic and reconstructive surgery
- Thoracic (chest) surgery
- Urological (male and female urinary tract; male reproductive system) surgery
- Vascular (blood vessel) surgery
- MRI / CT exams
Paediatric (Age 18 or Less) Health Care Service Areas
- Paediatric heart surgery
- Paediatric dental / oral maxillofacial surgery
- Paediatric general surgery
- Paediatric gynaecologic (female reproductive system)surgery
- Paediatric neurosurgery (nervous system)
- Paediatric ophthalmic (eye) surgery
- Paediatric orthopaedic (e.g., muscles, joints, ligaments, etc.) surgery
- Paediatric otolarynic (ear, nose, throat) surgery
- Paediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery
- Paediatric urologic (male and female urinary tract, male reproductive system) surgery
Links to radiation, systemic therapy, and cardiac wait times in Ontario.
How do we measure wait times?
We measure wait times in 2 ways :
- For surgical wait times, we track the time between when a surgery is ordered and when it is performed.
- For diagnostic scans (MRIs and CTs) wait times, we track the time between when a diagnostic scan is ordered and when it is completed.
Why do some hospitals report their wait times while others do not?
Today, only hospitals that get Ontario government funding to provide extra procedures have to report wait times.
For More Information
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