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What's in the news: Jun. 19 -- “Spotty progress” on wait times

"Spotty progress" in latest Wait Time Alliance report card
The 2009 report card by the Wait Time Alliance, its fourth annual one, shows small improvements on some measures in some provinces, but the authors of the report, entitled Unfinished Business, insist that is not enough. [Unfinished Business (PDF)]

Unfortunately, the report card's accuracy is inherently limited by the lack of reliable data collected and disseminated by the provinces. That in itself is one of Canada's major hurdles in the struggle to reduce wait times, according to the report's authors. "People can go online and track the progress of a package they shipped from one end of the country to another, yet in many parts of Canada patients still cannot find out how long they can expect to wait for critical medical treatments and procedures," Dr Lorne Bellan, a co-chair of the Wait Time Alliance, said in a release. "We need to do a better job of tracking and reporting on the full wait that patients experience to access necessary medical care." [Wait Time Alliance news release]

Dr Robert Ouellet, the president of the Canadian Medical Association (which is a member of the Wait Time Alliance), commented Thursday, "Right now, patients receive excellent care, but too often it is in spite of the system, rather than because of it." [Canwest News Service]

The WTA is a research and advocacy group formed by associations of medical specialists from a number of fields of medicine.

Presumably coincidentally, a Vancouver-based company called Timely Medical Alternatives announced plans to offer patients faster specialist access -- for a fee.

The company's president, Rick Baker, claimed the new service is not illegal. "All we will be providing is research," he said. The government has not yet evaluated the new service's legality.

The company has made headlines in the past with the service it currently offers patients: it will connect them with American facilities and physicians to treat patients faster than they can be treated in Canada. [Vancouver Sun]

Controversy pushes chair off eHealth Ontario board
eHealth Ontario board chair Dr Alan Hudson has resigned from the agency's board as controversy continues to rock the province's Liberal government after it was reported that millions of dollars of contracts given to consultants were not opened up for bidding. [Toronto Star] [Toronto Sun]

Dr Hudson, a neurosurgeon and former president of Toronto's giant University Health Network group of hospitals, was largely responsible for the province's wait times reduction efforts over the last several years.

CEO Sarah Kramer was dismissed from her job last week for similar reasons. [Canadian Medicine]

In discussing the recent dismissal of Ms Kramer and Dr Hudson's departure, Premier Dalton McGuinty said, apparently with a straight face, "The buck stops with me."

No H1N1 flu field hospital in Manitoba
Health Canada declined requests to set up a field hospital to combat the fast spread of the H1N1 flu in First Nations communities in a remote area of Manitoba especially hard hit by the virus. [Canwest News Service]

The H1N1 flu has been spreading particularly quickly in Manitoba of late. [CBC News]

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