Frequently Asked Questions - Surgical Wait Time in New Brunswick

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a surgical wait time?

In New Brunswick, surgical wait time begins when you and your surgeon agree that you need surgery and you are ready to have surgery. The wait time ends when your surgery is performed.

Q: What is wait time and why does it exist?

Waiting happens when the demand for a service cannot be met immediately. The need for services is increasing as the population ages and requires more care, diagnostic tests improve, and advances in technology make more conditions treatable. Demand also increases if access to services is not appropriately organized, and if there is a shortage of resources such as health care providers, equipment and operating funds. Patients may wait at several points along the path of care, including waiting for a primary health care provider, a diagnostic test, a surgeon, surgery, rehabilitation, discharge to the community, and home care.

The length of time a patient waits can be influenced by a number of factors. Patients with illnesses that are not considered life threatening may wait longer when emergency cases arise. Long waits for certain surgeons may also occur if they get more referrals (e.g., family doctors may refer to one surgeon more frequently). Patients and referring family doctors may not be aware of surgeons with shorter waiting lists because this information was not routinely collected and shared.

Waiting for surgery becomes a cause for concern if waiting goes beyond a clinically appropriate amount of time and starts to affect a person’s health, social and economic well being.

Q: Who decides if I need surgery?

Your first visit will likely be to your family doctor. If you are referred to a surgeon, you and the surgeon will discuss your needs. If the surgeon recommends a procedure, you then decide whether to have surgery.

Q: What can I do while I wait for surgery?

Take the time to familiarize yourself with your full range of surgical options by talking to your doctor. You should have a complete understanding of the risks of surgery, and discuss with your physician whether those risks outweigh the potential benefits. Feel free to ask questions about all of your treatment options.

Q: How long will I wait for surgery?

Waits may vary for different types of surgery, or between surgeons or regions. For specific information about your case, contact the access management office in your Regional Health Authority.

Q: What happens when I see a surgeon?

Steps 1-5

  1. Your surgeon will order the diagnostic tests that are required and assess your need for surgery.
  2. Ask your surgeon questions about the procedure. You and your surgeon will discuss the need for surgery.
  3. You will be notified of a date for your surgery and any tests required prior to surgery will be booked.
  4. The length of your stay in hospital will be determined by your procedure. If you are having day surgery you will go home that same day. In other situations you may be admitted to the hospital for your surgery.
  5. Following your procedure, you will be told about your post-surgery care, including any required medications, therapies, treatments and follow-up procedures.

Q: What are my options?

It is important that you ask your doctor about all your options. Depending on your situation, you may have the option of getting a referral to another specialist or hospital to receive your treatment sooner.

If your condition changes while waiting, it is important to discuss these changes with your doctor. It is your doctor who will need to assess the severity of your illness and the potential harm to you if treatment is delayed.

Q: What factors influence my waiting time?

The length of time you wait for surgery is affected by a number of factors.

Patient Factors

  • Clinical Assessment: Your medical condition will be assessed focusing on pain intensity, type and frequency of symptoms, impact of the condition on your activities of daily living, and level of expected improvement with surgery.

Physician Factors

  • Number of referrals received: The number of referrals a specialist receives can affect the wait time.
  • Allocation of OR time: The amount of operating room time allocated to a specialist may also affect the length of time you wait.

Hospital Factors

  • Scheduling: Facilities must organize and coordinate your pre-operative, operative, and post operative health services. This can potentially affect the timing of your specific procedure.
  • Bumping: Sometimes patients who are booked for surgery have to be "bumped" if an emergency case occurs.

System Factors

  • Availability of health providers: The availability of health care professionals in the operating room and of the nursing unit can influence how quickly people receive surgery.
  • Changing health needs of a community: Wait time for surgery may grow as more people have a need for a particular health service. For example, a large senior citizen population in an area is likely to mean a greater need for cataract or hip replacement surgery.