Health Minister Terry Lake announced an additional $25 million to increase surgical capacity in the next year. He also announced the provincial government will fund four new MRI machines.
“Despite significantly increasing the number of surgeries and MRIs being done each year, we are struggling to keep pace with the growing demand,” Lake said. “This extra funding will provide health authorities with additional support as they complete their plans for these procedures in the upcoming year, and while we work together to implement strategies that improve access over the longer-term.”
The $25 million in additional one-time funding supports B.C.’s strategy for surgical services, which focuses on patient-centred quality care. The strategy aims to provide patients who need scheduled surgical services with seamless and timely access to information and care. While the total number of surgeries in B.C. has increased 40% over the last 14 years, health authorities are seeing unprecedented demand and increasing wait times.To help meet demand in the short-term, health authorities will use the additional funding to reduce the backlog of patients waiting for surgeries. All surgeries will be publicly funded, and will be performed in hospital operating rooms and at contracted private-sector surgical sites. The exact number of extra surgeries is still to be determined.
As part of the provincial surgical strategy, health authorities are also working on longer-term measures that will improve co-ordination of care and communication with patients, and more timely access to the service they need. Work is already underway in health authorities at 11 “early adopter” hospital sites throughout the province to implement new systems and policies that will streamline and standardize the management of surgical waitlists. The experiences and lessons learned at these sites will guide system-wide improvements under the provincial strategy.
Diagnostic imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging, is an important part of the system of surgical care. Four new additional MRI machines will be installed in communities facing increased demand: Surrey’s Jim Pattison Outpatient and Surgical Centre, Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge, Vernon Jubilee Hospital, and Nanaimo Regional Hospital. The new machines are expected to be in place in 2018.
These new additional machines will increase the number of MRI scans being done in B.C., in support of B.C.’s MRI strategy released in 2015, which will see up to 65,000 more scans done annually by 2019. The full cost of the MRI machines will be determined through a procurement process. An MRI machine generally costs about $5 million.
The number of MRI scans done in B.C. has risen from 37,000 in 2001, to a projected 177,000 this fiscal year. Since 2001-02, B.C. has acquired 16 new MRI scanners, bringing the total number to 25. Including the four announced today, a further 10 new additional MRI units will go into operation in the next two to three years.
Approximately 572,000 surgical procedures were performed in B.C. in 2015-16. Health authorities completed more than 5,000 additional surgeries in 2015-16 through $25 million earmarked to improve access, particularly for people who had been waiting more than 40 weeks for their surgery.