CORNWALL — Ontario has come out on top for the third year in a row in the annual Canada Health Consumer Index.

“Its wait times are shorter than the national average in most categories, including orthopedic surgery and diagnostic imaging,” reads the report.

“However, an unusually large number of Ontarians reported waiting more than one month the last time they were referred to a specialist for a new condition.”

Primary care and problem prevention were noted as a particularly strong areas for Ontario.
The index compares the 10 Canadian provincial health-care systems in their responsiveness to the needs of consumers.

British Columbia and New Brunswick trailed Ontario in second and third places, respectively.
Jim Brownell, MPP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry, said on Wednesday he was pleased to hear Ontario finished first for the third year in a row.

“Certainly, I know that as a province, we’ve invested heavily in trying to reduce wait times,” he said. “I think it’s certainly paying off.”
But Brownell acknowledged that he keeps hearing about local challenges “all the time.”

“I think that with the local situation, there’s been such turmoil and stress, with regards to the restructuring at the hospital,” he said. “I think when it’s coordinated, who does what, when and where, we’ll see shorter wait times.”

He said hardly a week goes by when he doesn’t get a visit, phone call or email about some-b ody relaying their hospital experience.

“I am hearing that hip and knee replacements are getting done a lot quicker than (a patient) had anticipated, which is a good sign,” he said. “All these things take time.”

Brownell said certain hospitals across the province have shortened wait times, adding he feels the government has been successful, but that there’s a lot more work do to.

“I’m very happy to see the investments we’ve made as a province,” he said.

“I think this is evidence that, yes, it is helping.”
Jeanette Despatie, chief executive officer for the Cornwall Community Hospital, agreed with Brownell.

“Clearly, wait times have been a provincial priority in Ontario,” she said. “It’s not surprising to me that we would rank high, as a province, when measured against wait times. It’s indicative of our progress. I hope it remains a priority, because there is an opportunity for further development.”

She added in certain areas, such as diagnostic imaging, Cornwall has very low wait times.

“We’re proud to meet and exceed the provincial wait times in diagnostic testing,” she said. “For the most part, we meet the target on surgical wait times.”
Despatie acknowledged the area has seen a blip in wait times for hip and knee replacements.

“We’ve had to cancel a number of surgeries because of a shortage of beds,” she explained. “We have seen an increase in surgical cancellations, which impacts wait times over the past year.”

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the Belgian Health Consumer Powerhouse, in co-operation with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies released the third annual Canada Health Consumer Index this week.

The index ranks health-care performance in each province from the perspective of the consumer by assessing the extent to which the health systems meet the needs of health-care users.

In the study, analysts from the Frontier Centre and the Health Consumer Powerhouse compare the 10 provincial health-care systems across five different “sub-disciplines:” patients’ rights, problem prevention, wait times, patient outcome, and range and reach of services.