Hurry up and wait: Special report examines specialist wait times in Kingston
Dozens of people are coming forward with complaints about how long it takes to see a specialist at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC.)
Officials at the hospital say there are legitimate reasons for the delays as medical facilities across the province are dealing with two issues: a shortage of specialists and an aging demographic.
“We have a lot of older patients now with multiple medical needs, far more than before and so we’re trying to cope in new ways with managing that larger volume of requests,” said Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, the Chief of Staff at KHSC.
Hospitals are also competing on the world stage to attract doctors with subspecialties such as cardiology, neurology and internal medicine.
“We, for example, just recently just got permission to recruit 30 new physicians over the next three years to our organization and each year we’ll be submitting other unmet needs to request additional recruitment,” said Fitzgerald.
But those answers aren’t good enough for William Webster, a Mallorytown man who has been waiting a year to see a dermatologist. He suffers from a skin condition called psoriasis, which covers his entire body.
“It’s embarrassing. People think it’s contagious, it’s not contagious but that’s the first thing, people look at you it’s offensive to people,” said Webster from his Mallorytown Ont. home.
That’s a long time to wait but for patients who need to see other kinds of specialists, the wait is even longer.
Nancy Mustard and her son Curtis Brown are facing a six-year wait to see a neurologist. Brown has hydrocephalus, a condition where fluid collects on the brain and recently he’s experienced complications.
“I’m angry. Really angry,” said Mustard. “What does it take for a neurologist just to get him in and check him over?”
According to KHSC, another way to curb hospital wait times is with the help of a new technology called e-referrals and telemedicine.
The system enables specialists to help patients over the phone and internet without an appointment.
The goal is to reduce the number of unnecessary referrals to specialists and to assist primary care providers in quickly treating their patients.
The technology allows a family doctor to send patient-specific questions using a secure web-based platform and can attach files such as a lab report, photo, or diagnostic scan so the specialist has all the information they need to provide an opinion.
The specialist then can respond with advice or suggestions for treatment.
So far, 75 specialists and 95 primary care providers are on board covering a wide range of specialities including dermatology, gastroenterology, psychiatry, surgery and cardiology.
While that’s good news for some, others like Webster who are sick and stuck on a waitlist, aren’t happy.
“We’ve got free health care in Canada and bless us we do but we do pay for it by wait times.”
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