“It doesn’t work”: the wait for surgery is getting longer even though the government has paid for 115,000 private operations

The government has paid for more than 115,000 private surgeries over the past two years to reduce the huge waiting list. But rather than decreasing, the number of Quebecers who wait has reached a record.

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“It doesn’t work,” notes Xavier Gauvreau, resident doctor and vice-president of Quebec Doctors for a Public Network (MQRP). The catch-up plan is not having the expected effects on the ground.”

Since 2021, at least 115,068 surgeries have been performed in specialized medical centers (CMS), according to data from the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) obtained by The newspaper.

These surgeries were carried out in these private clinics, at the expense of the government which wanted to reduce its waiting list.

However, the number of Quebecers waiting increased from 140,000 in 2021 to 170,000 at the end of last year.

Drain the network

“The strategy [du gouvernement] was to finance private initiatives […] Instead of putting money into staff retention, into working conditions. We are draining the public network of personnel and this is what is blocking the most on the ground,” believes the Dr Gauvreau.

Already, the consequences are serious, he said. CMS only does day surgeries, and the complex cases, with vulnerable patients, are the ones that wait.

Regions where there are no – or few – CMS are also penalized. More than 10,000 surgeries are performed annually in the private sector in Montreal and Montérégie, while Bas-St-Laurent, Abitibi or Lanaudière show zero or almost, for example.

The “revolution” is necessary

“It’s going to take a revolution for that to change,” says the DD Véronique Godbout, president of the Quebec Orthopedic Association.

“There is no secret, it takes staff and a change in the way we operate,” she continues.

Also working in CMS, she believes they are more efficient than hospitals, but she avoids pointing the finger at them for the current staffing crisis.

“There is a huge amount of work to be done,” said the DD Godbout. Regularly in Quebec, the last case of the day is canceled. Either because other rooms exceed [l’horaire] or because it was longer between each case.”

This autumn, The newspaper revealed that a majority of hospitals did not reach the target of 85% utilization of their operating theaters.

Number of surgeries in CMS by region for the 2021-2022 financial year

  • Bas-Saint-Laurent: 0
  • Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean: 845
  • National Capital: 1220
  • Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec: 2514
  • Estrie: 4184
  • Montreal: 21,052
  • Outaouais: 4706
  • Abitibi-Témiscamingue: 0
  • North Shore: 0
  • Northern Quebec: 4
  • Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine: 0
  • Chaudière-Appalaches: 6374
  • Laval: 6597
  • Lanaudière: 73
  • Laurentians: 1694
  • Montérégie: 14,619

Total: 63,882

Number of surgeries in CMS by region 1er April 2023 to December 30, 2023

  • Bas-Saint-Laurent: 90
  • Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean: 800
  • National Capital: 1456
  • Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec: 1507
  • Estrie: 4322
  • Montreal: 19,256
  • Outaouais: 4898
  • Abitibi-Témiscamingue: 0
  • North Shore: 0
  • Northern Quebec: 0
  • Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine: 0
  • Chaudière-Appalaches: 2635
  • Laval: 4107
  • Lanaudière: 470
  • Laurentians: 1099
  • Montérégie: 10,546

Total: 51,186

Number of Quebecers waiting for surgery in April 2021: 146,760

As of December 30, 2023: 170,829

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