London hospital officials: Cancer surgery wait times cut dramatically

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London Health Sciences Centre has over the past year reduced cancer surgery wait times for non-urgent and non-emergent patients by 50 per cent, its oncology head says.

The regional hospital group said Wednesday in a statement that, as of March, through a “dedicated team effort” 90 per cent of oncology patients at the Verspeeten Family Cancer Centre at LHSC’s Victoria Hospital were receiving surgery with the targeted wait time according to the urgency of their diagnosis.

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“We know how hard it is for patients with cancer and their families to wait for surgery and we needed to do everything we could to improve our times,” said Michael Ott, LHSC’s department head of oncology. “We won’t settle until every patient gets care within the appropriate target wait time, and we continue to improve.”

Measures to speed up surgery waits included improving referral systems, optimizing data used in decision making, and dedicating more operating room time to cancer surgeries, Ott said.

Depending on the diagnosis, patients are categorized as Priority 4 through Priority 1, with the former not presenting symptoms and the latter being advanced enough to require emergency surgery, according to the province.

LHSC officials said that while high priority patients have “largely” been seen within the recommended surgical wait time (14 days for Priority 2 and 24 hours for Priority 1), the reduction in wait times means better outcomes for early-stage patients who may have faced barriers.

“These improvements reflect our commitment to providing timely and efficient care to a growing number of patients across Southwestern Ontario,” said Kevin Chan, LHSC’s corporate medical executive.

While London’s cancer surgery wait times lagged prior to the pandemic, particularly for thyroid and endocrine cancer, the backlog of surgeries brought on by COVID-19 exacerbated the issue. Some Priority 3 and 4 patients waited several months between referrals, surgery consultations, surgeries, and treatment.

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