Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation

July 12, 2005 09:00 ET

Supreme Court decision pressures governments

to deliver orthopaedic care better and faster Attention: Health/Medical Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - July 12, 2005) - The Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation believes the recent Supreme Court decision on Chaoulli v Québec places significant pressure on the federal and provincial/territorial governments to fix faster Canada's overly long surgical wait times.

"In effect, health ministries are no longer protected by a ban on private insurance coverage for mainstream services such as orthopaedic surgery," says Angelique Berg, the Foundation's executive director. "The ministries must now meet the reasonable expectations of patients for timely delivery of health-care services or face a likely exodus by consumers to private health management organizations."

On June 9, the Supreme Court struck down a Quebec prohibition on private insurance for health-care services already covered by that province's public health-insurance plan. Four of the seven judges found that the ban violated the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The key issue in the majority decision was that unreasonably long wait times for services such as joint-replacement surgery violated an individual's fundamental right to security of person. As a result, governments are obligated to deliver timely service (even though there are no such guarantees under the Canada Health Act) or ultimately forego their monopoly on health insurance.

"Wait times aren't some abstract notion," says Dr. Paul Wright, chair of the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation's Board of Directors. "Excessively long wait times measure in weeks, days and minutes the very real suffering of people who deserve better from the Canadian health-care system. If we are to make any headway, health ministries must commit more resources to the task."

The Foundation works closely with the Canadian Orthopaedic Association (COA), the national organization for orthopaedic surgeons, which recommend that health ministries adopt Maximum Acceptable Wait Times as benchmarks to gauge performance on reducing wait times for joint-replacement surgery. The COA asserts that no one should wait longer than three months to have an initial consultation with a surgeon, and no patient should wait longer than six months to undergo an orthopaedic procedure. Furthermore, patients who are at risk of serious decline in health status should receive orthopaedic care within three months of consulting with a surgeon.

"These are challenging benchmarks but they're reasonable," says Dr. Wright. "Even with adequate resources, they will take a number of years to achieve. I believe the Supreme Court decision is going to speed up the process. This is good news for orthopaedic patients in Canada."

"Patients deserve timely access to health services. Any real solution to the wait times issue," says the Foundation's Angelique Berg, "will need to address such areas as training and hiring more surgeons, anesthesiologists and orthopaedic nurses. Access to operating rooms will also have to improve, and hospital budgets for purchasing orthopaedic devices will need to increase. If they are serious about preserving the public health-care system, all levels of government must cooperate and start focusing on delivering timely health services to all Canadians."

Founded in 1965, the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation is a mid-sized registered Canadian charity powered by a professional staff and network of over 300 volunteers. The Foundation is Canada's only charitable organization dedicated solely to helping people maintain and restore their bone and joint - or orthopaedic - health. The Foundation is dedicated to raising funds through public donations and allocating those funds to initiatives that will contribute to achieving its Mission: to achieve excellence in bone and joint health, mobility and function for all Canadians through the advancement of research, education and delivery of care.

/For further information: Debbie Gates
Communications & Education Manager
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Tel: 416-410-2341 or 1-800-461-3639 ext. 3
Direct tel: 905-799-2719
Cell phone: 416-577-3251
Fax: 416-352-5078


Contact Information

  • Debbie Gates, Communications & Education Manager, Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
    Primary Phone: 416-410-2341 ext. 3
    Secondary Phone: 905-799-2719
    Toll-Free: 800-461-3639