WDMH breast-cancer wait times reveal room for improvement

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

File photo of modern mammography.

WINCHESTER — Most women with suspected breast cancer are waiting an average of 29 days for their first surgical consultation at Winchester District Memorial Hospital, almost three times the Ontario average of 10 days, according to data from the first quarter of 2017 recently released by the provincial office of Health Quality Ontario.

The available stats involve WDMH’s “priority 3” breast cancer patients — those with a “high suspicion” of cancer. Across measured hospitals in Ontario, the average wait time for such a patient to receive a surgical consultation after referral by their family physician is 10 days, while the provincial “target” is 21 days. WDMH managed to meet the Ontario target 56 percent of the time while posting an average of 29 days, according to the charted data for the local hospital, between January and March 2017.

The top-performing hospitals on the scale saw these patients in two or three days. Up the road in the Nation’s Capital, the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital met the provincial target 98 percent of the time, with those patients waiting an average of seven days from referral to surgical consultation. Nation Valley News has asked WDMH for comment on the statistic and others related to it. For example, graphed data shows the average wait time in the category at WDMH was about 15 or 16 days through 2015 but jumped to near the current level of 29 in the first quarter of 2016, dipping down to the mid-twenties in the third quarter of last year, only to rise back up again.

The data also measures the average time a breast cancer patient waits to undergo cancer surgery once they’ve decided on a course of action with a surgeon. The Health Quality Ontario numbers show the provincial average for decision-to-breast-cancer-surgery is 16 days, while priority 3 WDMH patients waited an average of 29 days in the first quarter of 2017. That’s an improvement over the 30-plus days the local institution marked in the final quarter of 2016, and just outside the province’s 28-day “target” time for patients awaiting breast cancer surgery. Forty-four percent of the involved WDMH breast cancer patients received their surgery in 28 days or less, meeting the Ontario benchmark, during the first quarter of this year.

The percentage of cases seen within target time at WDMH does improve overall when priority 2 and priority 4 breast cancer patients are added to the mix (the stats don’t include emergency “priority 1” patients) although specific numbers for those segments are not shown in the WDMH charts. When these additional cases are lumped in, WDMH managed to see patients for their initial surgical consultation within the province’s 21-day benchmark 71 percent of the time, and 67 percent of patients awaiting surgery were treated within the 28-day Ontario target at WDMH.

However, the comparative breast cancer results between hospitals largely involves priority 3 cases, according to the Health Quality Ontario data. “For this surgery, most patients are categorized as priority 3,” says a subtitle above the applicable listing.

Time from referral to first breast cancer surgical consultation at WDMH

Source: Health Quality Ontario

Source: Health Quality Ontario

Time from decision to breast cancer surgery

 

Source: Health Quality Ontario

Source: Health Quality Ontario

With files from Ruslan Matthews.

 


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