In New Brunswick, the average wait times for surgeries are available online, but the province says in a memo it will update how those wait times are reported to include specific surgeons.
The memo, sent through the Department of Health, was given to the New Brunswick Medical Society, the chief executive officers of Horizon and Vitalite Health Network, and the executive director of acute care with the department.
A person can see the wait times based on the region, hospital or specific surgery, often being compared to a national or provincial benchmark.
“This upcoming change reflects an intent to increase transparency in public reporting and promote improved planning of referrals amongst referring providers,” the memo said. “This change will bring public reporting of surgical wait times more in line with our provincial counterparts, while providing citizens of New Brunswick a means to inform themselves on wait times for surgical procedures in New Brunswick.”
However, interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson said he hopes the decision was not intended to be punitive to surgeons with longer wait times than others.
“I haven’t seen an explanation why they want to do this,” he said. “I hope it’s not in the context of being punitive. I hope it is in the context of trying to improve things but I don’t know if it really will improve things.”
He said he would hate to see more doctors leave the province because they feel they are being punished.
“There is also a significant element of a shortage of resources in order to support these types of surgeries,” he said. “Above and beyond surgeons that are doing these types of procedures, so, it’s a bigger issue than what they are focusing on.”
In Moncton, at the George-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, five out of 10 surgeries are performed within 56 days. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 surgeries are performed within 242 days.
The Moncton Hospital reports five out of 10 surgeries are performed within 62 days, with nine out of 10 surgeries being performed within 312 days.
In Fredericton, at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, five out of 10 surgeries are performed within 56 days. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 surgeries were completed within 385 days.
In Saint John, where there are two hospitals, the St. Joseph’s Hospital is reported to have completed five out of 10 surgeries within 131 days, while it completed nine of 10 surgeries within 371 days.
At the Saint John Regional Hospital, five out of 10 surgeries were completed within 55 days. Meanwhile, nine of 10 surgeries were completed within 314 days.
For cataract surgery, only 63 per cent of surgeries were completed within the national benchmark of 112 days.
For coronary artery bypass graft, only 59 per cent of surgeries were completed with the New Brunswick benchmark of 42 days, with this category being the only one without a national benchmark.
Hip fracture fixation has a national benchmark of 48 hours. In New Brunswick, 88 per cent were completed within that time.
The province is reporting the national benchmark for hip replacement surgery is 182 days, but the health-care system only managed to make that benchmark 48 per cent of the time.
Knee replacement has a benchmark of 182 days, with the province only completing them 30 per cent under that benchmark.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard, though, said the change is about empowering the patient.
“More importantly, empowering our patients to ask the questions about whether or not they could receive their service sooner in another zone,” she said, adding the update to the website also increases the province’s transparency and accountability.
She explained this was a recommendation of the surgical advisory committee, which was created in 2020.
As for whether updating the website to include specific surgeons would place additional pressure on medical professionals or perhaps feel punitive, she said she hopes that isn’t the case.
“I hope they understand the intent,” she said. “We are not the first province to do this.”
Alberta, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia all report surgery wait times to specific surgeons, according to their respective websites.
The New Brunswick Medical Society declined to comment on the contents of the memo or the decision following a request on Thursday.