Waiting for children’s surgery in Canada: the Canadian Paediatric Surgical Wait Times project
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BACKGROUND: In addition to possibly prolonged suffering and anxiety, extended waits for children's surgery beyond critical developmental periods has potential for lifelong impact. The goal of this study was to determine the duration of waits for surgery for children and youth at Canadian paediatric academic health sciences centres using clinically-derived access targets (i.e., the maximum acceptable waiting periods for completion of specific types of surgery) as used in this Canadian Paediatric Surgical Wait Times project. METHODS: We prospectively applied standardized wait-time targets for surgery, created by nominal-group consensus expert panels, to pediatric patients at children's health sciences centres across Canada with decision-to-treat dates of Sept. 1, 2007 or later. From Jan. 1 to Dec. 30, 2009, patients' actual wait times were compared with their target wait times to determine the percentage of patients receiving surgery after the target waiting period. RESULTS: Overall, 27% of pediatric patients from across Canada (17,411 of 64,012) received their surgery after their standardized target waiting period. Dentistry, ophthalmology, plastic surgery and cancer surgery showed the highest percentages of surgeries completed past target. INTERPRETATION: Many children wait too long for surgery in Canada. Specific attention is required, in particular, in dentistry, ophthalmology, plastic surgery and cancer care, to address children's wait times for surgery. Improved access may be realized with use of national wait-time targets.