Hospitals to take each other's overflow

Paul McLeod
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Halifax residents may soon be heading to Amherst to fix that busted knee, or to Springhill for that hernia operation. It's all part of Capital District Health Authority's new plan to reduce wait times without spending more money.

The new plan, Keeping the promise - A Strategy For Access, Innovation and Accountability, focuses on making the health authority more efficient.

"The annual budget of CDHA is $700 million. That's a fair chunk of money. There's 10,000 people working here, so there's a huge army. And on a daily basis, I notice how inefficiently we work," said Jaap Bonjer, Capital Health's chief of surgery. "So I truly believe if we manage to create a functional team without complex approval processes which take months, sometimes years, we can provide much more timely care and better care."

The plan lays out a series of low-cost steps to decrease wait times. Included is creating a general wait list, giving people the choice to go to other districts for faster service.

Cumberland Health Authority CEO Bruce Quigley said his district is willing to take on some of the overflow from Capital Health. It's already benefited some hernia patients.

"There will exist excess surgical capacity within our district. We believe this capacity and the associated resources ... are important assets that should be available to the province," said Quigley.

Currently, 5,000 patients are waiting for surgery at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, and 60 per cent of them have waited longer than the national standard.

Capital Health will also draw on Alberta, a leader in reducing wait times for orthopedic surgery, for inspiration. In Alberta, people with problems in areas such as hips, knees and spine go to an assessment clinic staffed by physiotherapists and other experts. These staff then select which patients are candidates for surgery, which frees up time for orthopedic surgeons.

"We are certainly behind Alberta," said Bonjer. "We are in close contact with the (Alberta) Bone and Joint Institute and they'll be coming to Halifax by the end of the month and we're going to copy their model."

Orthopedics is a particular weakness for Capital Health. While the national benchmark for surgery wait times is six months, waits at Capital Health can be three or four times that long.

Various other changes are underway, from having surgeons and physicians work more closely together, to eliminating rarely used instruments on surgical instrument trays to save costs.

Transcontinental Media

Organizations: Capital Health, Capital District Health Authority, Cumberland Health Authority QEII Health Sciences Centre Bone and Joint Institute

Geographic location: Halifax, Alberta, Amherst

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