Surgeons in Fraser Health are being directed to reassess patients who wait longer than 40 weeks for surgery.

Fraser facing fines for delayed surgeries

Health officials defend reassessing patients with long waits ahead of threshold for penalties

Fraser Heatlh is under fire for ordering its surgeons to reassess patients in an attempt to avoid steep fines for failing to complete surgeries within one year.

Leaked documents released by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation show Fraser is already facing fines of more than $2.5 million for 650 scheduled surgeries that were waiting more than a year as of Oct. 9, while another 4,124 surgeries have waited six to 12 months.

A Nov. 4 memo to surgeons directs them to begin reassessing patients who have waited more than 40 weeks.

“It is imperative for the interest of all, including our patients, that we use every available strategy to avoid penalties,” Dr. Peter Blair, Fraser Health’s medical director for surgery states in the memo, which is also signed by Judith Hockney, Fraser’s executive director for surgery programs.

The memo says long waits have eased somewhat, with 4.5 per cent of surgeries now exceeding 52 weeks compared to 10 per cent a year ago.

But there are still excessive waits triggering financial penalties, which are levied by the health ministry under its pay-for-performance system.

In an interview, Blair defended the decision to reassess patients and rejected suggestions from CTF B.C. director Jordan Bateman that the move is strictly a tactic to skirt fines by either resetting or pausing the waits in long-delayed cases.

“What we’re trying to do is remind the surgeon that that patient has been there for 40 weeks and they better be getting them done,” Blair said, adding he’s upset with the CTF accusation.

He said the patient doesn’t lose their place in line, nor is their recorded wait frozen to avoid a fine.

Bateman argued reassessments are unnecessary and wasteful, accusing Fraser of “playing games” with patients.

“We already know these people need surgery,” he said. “Having a reassessment is throwing money away for no reason instead of doing a surgery or finding an operating room you can open.”

But Blair said reassessments are justified, not just to nudge surgeons to get long-delayed patients scheduled but also to ensure the paperwork is in order and that a patient’s condition or medications haven’t changed.

If new medical tests are needed and that’s not discovered until the day of surgery, he said, more delay could result.

Health Ministry Terry Lake also defended the reassessments.

“People’s conditions change,” Lake said. “If you’ve got a knee surgery, for instance, it’s important you make sure the need is still there. People may have undergone physiotherapy and reduced the need for surgery in some cases.”

He said Fraser is “doing the right thing” by reminding patients to “redouble efforts” to get surgeries scheduled for patients waiting more than 40 weeks.

Under the province’s pay-for-performance system, health authorities can access extra funding beyond their budget if they meet targets.

In the case of surgeries, each patient who waits longer than a year means $1,400 in additional funding is withdrawn by the province.

Dr. David Jones, the former medical coordinator at Burnaby Hospital, said it appears officials are blaming surgeons when hospital simply aren’t given enough resources to shorten wait lists.

He said Lake is correct that some surgeries may prove unnecessary if patients’ conditions change.

“That’s possible,” Jones said. “Or they may have died waiting too.”

 

Hospitals with surgeries waiting more than a year

(as of Oct. 9)

Surrey Memorial – 226

Burnaby – 143

Peace Arch – 128

Jim Pattison Outpatient – 70

Abbotsford Regional – 32

Royal Columbian – 20

Delta – 11

Eagle Ridge – 8

Chilliwack General – 6

Ridge Meadows – 4

Langley Memorial – 1

Just Posted

More people in Chiliwack coming in to shelters to get out of the cold

Ruth and Naomi’s went over-capacity this week to accommodate shelter guests coming in from the cold

Chilliwack Chiefs visit Kent Elementary

Grade 6 students got a chance to visit with, and play hockey against, some local hockey celebrities

Agassiz break and enter suspect arrested

The Chilliwack man faces charges relating to break and enters throughout Agassiz

Outdoor rink, lagoon improvements on the agenda for Harrison

The projects are intended to increase tourism numbers and infrastructure in the resort village

Look at the latest: Family Day in Agassiz and Harrison

Don’t let the new day fool you, there’s still lots to do for Family Day in Agassiz and Harrison

VIDEO: Wheelchairs teach Agassiz students acceptance through sport

Teacher Donna Gallamore brought wheelchairs to the Kent Elementary for learning and fun

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Prominent B.C. realtor says he doesn’t know how child porn got on his computer

Closing arguments heard in Ian Meissner’s Chilliwack trial for accessing, possessing child porn

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Avalanche control planned tomorrow on Highway 1

The highway will be closed in the morning east of Revelstoke

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Mayors approve SkyTrain extension to UBC

Next step is a business plan and public consultation

Most Read