Beginning April 1, 2019, people with Parkinson’s disease whose symptoms can no longer be controlled with medication will have improved access to deep brain stimulation (DBS).

“We are taking action to expand access to deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s patients through a five-point plan that the ministry has developed with Vancouver Coastal Health to address wait times now and going forward,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This plan leverages solutions in the public health-care system to increase the volume of primary insertion procedures by 100% over the existing baseline.

“We are establishing and expanding a provincial program at UBC hospital that will maintain a centralized waitlist to ensure patients undergo the primary insertion DBS procedure as they are identified. In addition to increased operating room time, the program is also recruiting an additional qualified neurosurgeon with sufficient experience in primary insertions, while using a team of other neurosurgeons to support less specialized battery replacements for DBS as part of realizing new surgical targets.”

The number of primary insertion DBS surgeries will increase from a planning baseline of 36 in 2016-17 to 72 for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“People throughout B.C. with Parkinson’s disease will benefit from expanded access to deep brain stimulation procedures,” said Dr. Gary Redekop, head of neurosurgery, Vancouver Coastal Health. “We are committed to supporting the health, wellness and active lifestyles of our patients, and with these expanded services, more people with Parkinson’s disease will benefit from this life-changing surgery.”

DBS uses electrical impulses to stimulate a target area in the brain. The stimulation affects movement by altering the activity in that area of the brain. The procedure does not destroy any brain tissue and stimulation can be changed or stopped at any time. Surgery is required to implant the equipment that produces the electrical stimulation.

The formal establishment and expansion of the provincial DBS program is in addition to the government’s surgical strategy to increase surgical volumes through targeted investment, and maximizing best practices and efficiencies. The surgical strategy is supported with ongoing targeted funding of $75 million starting in 2018-19, increasing to $100 million in 2019-20. Approximately 9,400 more publicly funded surgeries will be completed by the end of March 2019.

The strategy will improve timely access to surgery through a more efficient surgical system and help the Province catch up to and keep up with demand. It will also improve patient experience by focusing on improving surgical pathways, co-ordination of care and information provided to patients.