Surgical wait times come with many costs


Having spent 21 days in hospital for a five- to seven-day treatment I know the issues Dr. Brian Day is dealing with in his lawsuit to change Medicare.

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The delay reasons were typical in that I was in a “queue” waiting for time in an operating room when a doctor could treat the blood clots in my leg. I was hospitalized in a “regional trauma centre.” As such, trauma cases that come in get priority and the “queue” is altered. The “region” is Fraser Health, the largest in B.C.

The reason for the actual delay is more “atypical” in that the operating room for this large trauma centre is restricted to 12-hour days, five days per week (augmented for emergencies). There were five rooms with an equal number of five waiting patients. Theoretically, 25 people were waiting approximately 14 days for surgery at a cost of approximately $2,000 per day.

If you consider all departments in the hospital experiencing similar delays, you can imagine the additional “bed costs” incurred while supposedly “saving” operating room costs.

Having waited for most of two weeks, I was surprised to learn that I would lose my foot if the operation was not successful. I now have such restriction to nerves in my foot that cold weather activities are severally limited.

This information was presented at a Fraser Health board meeting and in a letter to the board. The response from the board and former president Nigel Murray made this an exercise in futility. The fact that health funds were being “mismanaged” in this way seemed totally irrelevant.

Similarly I experienced a one-year wait for sinus surgery. While waiting, I lost my olfactory senses. As well, my work was restricted as sleep was hard to come by. I was in a queue of 500 people just for Greater Vancouver. This queue was apparently relieved right after my surgery by a subcontract to a private clinic.

What is at stake is more than costs and additional burden on the medical system. People’s lives and wellbeing are at stake. On top of that our economy is additionally burdened by time lost at work.

This is an issue of mismanagement and a system having to deal with the justification of costs to different bodies of government that haven’t got the ability -- or perhaps interest -- in looking at the secondary and tertiary costs that their decisions entail.

Perhaps Dr. Day will be successful in changing management of our medical system.

Peter van der Velden

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