Impact and inequity of inpatient waiting times for advanced cardiovascular services in community hospitals across the greater Toronto area.
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OBJECTIVE: To assess waiting times for inpatients requiring urgent transfer for advanced cardiovascular procedures from community hospitals; the magnitude of adverse events while waiting; and possible inequity among community hospitals in access to these services. SETTING: Seven representative community hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). DESIGN: Prospective data collection over 12 months (May 1997 to April 1998). PATIENTS: One thousand, two hundred and three inpatients who waited a total of 7261 hospital days for advanced cardiovascular procedures. MAIN RESULTS: The average (+/- SD) inpatient waiting time, in days, for catheterization was 5.7+/-1.3, angioplasty 5.8+/-2.1, bypass surgery 7.0+/-2.1 and pacemakers 4.2+/-1.6. During this time there were 14 deaths (1.2%) and 12 (1.0%) morbid events in-hospital. Extrapolation of these data to all 21 community hospitals in the GTA suggests that annually 21,783 bed days are used by inpatients awaiting transfer for advanced cardiovascular procedures, during which time 42 fatal and 36 morbid events can be expected to occur. Of the seven hospitals, one had a catheterization laboratory (group 1), two had no laboratory but had catheterizing cardiologists (group 2), and four had no laboratory and no catheterizing cardiologists (group 3). None of these hospitals had on-site revascularization facilities. The average number of days spent waiting for catheterization in group 1 (3.1+/-0.4) was significantly less than that in group 2 (5. 4+/-1.3, P<0.001) and group 3 (6.5+/-1.3, P<0.0001). The catheterization wait in group 2 was significantly less than that in group 3 (P<0.02). There were no significant differences among the three groups in the number of days spent waiting for angioplasty or bypass surgery. CONCLUSION: Waiting times for inpatients requiring advanced cardiovascular procedures in GTA community hospitals are long, and are associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. These waiting times also promote inefficient bed use and increased health care costs. Furthermore, these data suggest that access to inpatient coronary angiography in the GTA is inequitable and appears to depend more on the presence of on-site catheterization laboratories or catheterizing cardiologists than on illness severity.
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