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Last week's Toronto Star included an opinion piece by Conservative Leader John Tory. He questioned the government's record on reducing wait times and the integrity of hospital data posted on the provincial wait times website www.health.gov.on.ca In response, I submitted a letter to the editor recognizing the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care's leadership on measuring wait times for five key areas (MRI and CT, cancer, cardiac, hip and knee replacement and cataracts) and highlighted UHN's contributions to this strategy, including chairing several expert panels to guide the Ministry's approach. Many UHN staff are involved in reducing and capturing our wait times and I would like to thank all of you for your dedication to this important provincial initiative that is benefiting our patients. As always, I welcome your feedback.
All hospitals need to post wait times The Toronto Star Saturday, January 6, 2007 Liberals deceitful on wait times Opinion, Jan. 4.
The current debate over measurement of wait times for health-care services is a necessary step in improving our provincial system. As a cancer surgeon, I know first-hand how difficult it is to collect standardized data on access to quality cancer treatment. At University Health Network (Toronto Western, Princess Margaret and Toronto General Hospitals), we are delighted that the Ministry of Health has established accountability for service delivery through measuring wait times. We are impressed by the work done by the ministry and agencies like Cancer Care Ontario in engaging health-care providers to establish IT systems that accurately measure wait times. These measurement systems have evolved rapidly and the wait times website will soon provide patients with real-time data updated regularly by hospital providers. Since September 2004, UHN has been collecting and posting our wait times for 125 surgical and medical procedures on our website. But our data in isolation cannot help anyone - all hospitals need to use the same methodology and post their wait times on a regular basis and that is what the government's initiative is achieving. Tracking wait times enables us to identify and tackle bottlenecks that patients face in accessing care. We can identify where our wait times have improved (such as with joint replacement and cataract surgery) as a result of increased efficiency and the addition of resources from the province. We can also change how we allocate resources to meet the needs of patients based on reliable descriptions of how long they are waiting for service. This, however, is just the beginning of improving access in the system. Progress has been made but much more work remains to be done. This is not an easy process. We congratulate the government for making real progress in accurately measuring access to care in this province. We also congratulate the official opposition for emphasizing the importance of data accuracy and how the data are subsequently used. This debate is fundamental to the sustainability of our publicly funded health-care system.
Robert S. Bell, President and CEO, University Health Network