Surgeons in Fraser Health are being directed to reassess patients who wait longer than 40 weeks for surgery.

Fraser facing fines for delayed surgeries

Health officials defend reassessing patients with long waits ahead of threshold for penalties

Fraser Heatlh is under fire for ordering its surgeons to reassess patients in an attempt to avoid steep fines for failing to complete surgeries within one year.

Leaked documents released by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation show Fraser is already facing fines of more than $2.5 million for 650 scheduled surgeries that were waiting more than a year as of Oct. 9, while another 4,124 surgeries have waited six to 12 months.

A Nov. 4 memo to surgeons directs them to begin reassessing patients who have waited more than 40 weeks.

“It is imperative for the interest of all, including our patients, that we use every available strategy to avoid penalties,” Dr. Peter Blair, Fraser Health’s medical director for surgery states in the memo, which is also signed by Judith Hockney, Fraser’s executive director for surgery programs.

The memo says long waits have eased somewhat, with 4.5 per cent of surgeries now exceeding 52 weeks compared to 10 per cent a year ago.

But there are still excessive waits triggering financial penalties, which are levied by the health ministry under its pay-for-performance system.

In an interview, Blair defended the decision to reassess patients and rejected suggestions from CTF B.C. director Jordan Bateman that the move is strictly a tactic to skirt fines by either resetting or pausing the waits in long-delayed cases.

“What we’re trying to do is remind the surgeon that that patient has been there for 40 weeks and they better be getting them done,” Blair said, adding he’s upset with the CTF accusation.

He said the patient doesn’t lose their place in line, nor is their recorded wait frozen to avoid a fine.

Bateman argued reassessments are unnecessary and wasteful, accusing Fraser of “playing games” with patients.

“We already know these people need surgery,” he said. “Having a reassessment is throwing money away for no reason instead of doing a surgery or finding an operating room you can open.”

But Blair said reassessments are justified, not just to nudge surgeons to get long-delayed patients scheduled but also to ensure the paperwork is in order and that a patient’s condition or medications haven’t changed.

If new medical tests are needed and that’s not discovered until the day of surgery, he said, more delay could result.

Health Ministry Terry Lake also defended the reassessments.

“People’s conditions change,” Lake said. “If you’ve got a knee surgery, for instance, it’s important you make sure the need is still there. People may have undergone physiotherapy and reduced the need for surgery in some cases.”

He said Fraser is “doing the right thing” by reminding patients to “redouble efforts” to get surgeries scheduled for patients waiting more than 40 weeks.

Under the province’s pay-for-performance system, health authorities can access extra funding beyond their budget if they meet targets.

In the case of surgeries, each patient who waits longer than a year means $1,400 in additional funding is withdrawn by the province.

Dr. David Jones, the former medical coordinator at Burnaby Hospital, said it appears officials are blaming surgeons when hospital simply aren’t given enough resources to shorten wait lists.

He said Lake is correct that some surgeries may prove unnecessary if patients’ conditions change.

“That’s possible,” Jones said. “Or they may have died waiting too.”

 

Hospitals with surgeries waiting more than a year

(as of Oct. 9)

Surrey Memorial – 226

Burnaby – 143

Peace Arch – 128

Jim Pattison Outpatient – 70

Abbotsford Regional – 32

Royal Columbian – 20

Delta – 11

Eagle Ridge – 8

Chilliwack General – 6

Ridge Meadows – 4

Langley Memorial – 1

Just Posted

Cloverdale town hall adresses climate change and loss of biodiversity

Meeting co-hosted by Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag, Camp We Empower draws about 70 people

PHOTOS: Surrey designer uses toilet paper to make a dress for annual Toronto show

‘The dress is very experimental and avante garde,’ says Guildford-based Alex S. Yu

Police issue warning after four overdoses in North Delta

Police and emergency health services use naloxone to revive four overdose victims Thursday morning

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Surrey reacts to policing plan getting the green light

Former mayor, councillors and residents weigh in on the Public Safety Minister approving the transition

Trudeau vows to stand firm against ‘increasingly assertive’ China

China has accused Canada of meddling in its affairs

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

North Van music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

B.C. man on trial for daughters’ murders says an intruder broke in

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

‘Plenty of time for a deal’: Teachers’ union expects kids back in school on Sept. 3

BCTF says class size, composition at the heart of the issue

Most Read