Wait times to see a specialist way up, despite premier's commitment

Brad Wall promised seven-day max waits, but grew waits to over 300-day average

The average wait for a medical specialist appointment has increased to 326 days in Saskatoon and 294 days in Regina, nearly 50 per cent longer than just a year ago.

The much-longer waits are happening despite a pledge from Brad Wall in 2012 that no patient would wait longer than seven days for a specialist appointment.

“These numbers match what I’m hearing from frustrated families,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten, who questioned Wall on growing specialist wait times on Thursday.

“In 2013, most patients waited less than three months. That was too long, and the province needed to do better. But instead of the better access they were promised, patients are now waiting an average of 10 or 11 months. That’s 11 months of pain. That’s 11 months of anxiety and stress. And that’s 11 months in which a disease can get a lot worse.”

In 2013, 88 per cent of patients saw their specialist within three months of a referral from their family doctor, with the remaining 12 per cent waiting longer than that, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

By May 2014, average wait times had grown to about seven months in both major cities.

Over the last year, average wait times have jumped 47 per cent in Regina and 48 per cent in Saskatoon to the current 10-month and 11-month average waits, respectively. Those numbers are confirmed in internal health region documents.

“I support setting ambitious goals, and I don’t think Saskatchewan people would fault the government if it fell a bit short as long as real progress was being made,” said Broten. “But the Sask. Party isn’t making progress – it’s driving up wait times.

“These unacceptable waits are a clear indication that this government’s strategy for health care is just not working. The Sask. Party listens to an American consultant instead of front-line health professionals. They invest millions into Lean programming instead of investing in hands-on care. Their choices just don’t match the priorities of Saskatchewan people, and patients and their families are paying the price. It's increasingly clear that we can't afford to keep following the Sask. Party's approach when it comes to wait times for specialists, because they're taking us in the wrong direction.”