Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

September 11, 2005 11:44 ET

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology: Open Letter to Canadians

OAKVILLE, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 11, 2005) - Concerned about colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, cirrhosis or any of a number of digestive diseases? You're not alone. One in five Canadians waiting to see a gastroenterologist misses work because of digestive disorders. One in four Canadians waiting to see a gastroenterologist is affected in his or her day-to-day functioning. One in three Canadians waiting to see a gastroenterologist experiences anxiety as a direct result of digestive problems. Canadian gastroenterologists and the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology (CAG) know Canadians have reason to worry. Digestive diseases represent 15% of the total economic burden of Canadian health costs and cause a loss of productivity reaching $1.14 billion annually. That's more than mental, cardiovascular, respiratory or central nervous system diseases.

Meanwhile, Canadians have told Statistics Canada that waiting lists and wait times rank among their top health concerns. Despite the harsh realities surrounding digestive disease, Canadians must wait an inordinate amount of time for gastro-intestinal consultations and access to specialized testing. Case in point: 25% of patients with alarm symptoms, indicators of disease such as cancer, are forced to wait 4 months before their case is seen by a specialist. That's far longer than the 3 weeks Canadians have told us that they're willing to wait. Frankly, four months is unacceptable. It is time we got our priorities straight.

Surprisingly, in developing its wait list reform of the Canadian health care system, Paul Martin's government overlooked digestive disease. The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology has sent a call to action to Prime Minister Paul Martin, urging him to include digestive disease as a health-care priority and ensure Canadian patients obtain necessary and timely access to our specialists. Canadian gastroenterologists are already out of the starting block. The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology has done its homework, talked to patients, and is now armed with information that will be crucial in improving the Canadian health care system. We have developed 24 recommended targets for medically-acceptable wait times for gastroenterology, based on a study conducted by nearly 200 Canadian GI specialists who captured data on 5,500 patient visits. We are ready to work with Canadians to make Paul Martin's government pay attention.

We are not looking for handouts. The simple infusion of federal dollars into the health care system is a band-aid solution. We must now go further, as a society. The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology proposes to work hand-in-hand with Paul Martin's government to develop the creative strategies that will finally allow us to bring wait times to acceptable levels.

The federal government's wait time initiative must be adapted in the face of current realities. We can no longer accept the unnecessary prolongation of suffering. The lives of Canadians are at risk. The time to reprioritize is now.

Work with us to make reduced gastroenterology wait times a reality. Call the Prime Minister's office or your M.P. today.


Dr. Desmond J. Leddin, MB, FRCPC, MRCPI, MSc


Canadian Association of Gastroenterology (CAG)

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