BACKGROUND: Periodically surveying wait times for specialist health services in Canada captures current data and enables comparisons with previous surveys to identify changes over time.
METHODS: During one week in April 2012, Canadian gastroenterologists were asked to complete a questionnaire (online or by fax) recording demographics, reason for referral, and dates of referral and specialist visits for at least 10 consecutive new patients (five consultations and five procedures) who had not been seen previously for the same indication. Wait times were determined for 18 indications and compared with those from similar surveys conducted in 2008 and 2005.
RESULTS: Data regarding adult patients were provided by 173 gastroenterologists for 1374 consultations, 540 procedures and 293 same-day consultations and procedures. Nationally, the median wait times were 92 days (95% CI 85 days to 100 days) from referral to consultation, 55 days (95% CI 50 days to 61 days) from consultation to procedure and 155 days (95% CI 142 days to 175 days) (total) from referral to procedure. Overall, wait times were longer in 2012 than in 2005 (P<0.05); the wait time to same-day consultation and procedure was shorter in 2012 than in 2008 (78 days versus 101 days; P<0.05), but continued to be longer than in 2005 (P<0.05). The total wait time remained longest for screening colonoscopy, increasing from 201 days in 2008 to 279 days in 2012 (P<0.05).
DISCUSSION: Wait times for gastroenterology services continue to exceed recommended targets, remain unchanged since 2008 and exceed wait times reported in 2005.