Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A poor approximation

Saskatchewan officials point out the problem with the newly-announced federal health benchmarks:
Dr. Mark Ogrady, head of the surgery department for the Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region and chair of the sub-committee on surgical services for the Saskatchewan Surgical Care Network, which tracks wait times in the province, said any attention on wait lists is a good thing but the national framework should have been focused on more than just a few areas of care.

"The minute you target five things, what happens to the rest of them?" he said...

Saskatchewan's plan breaks down every area of care like the national plan does for heart bypasses and has resulted in wait time reductions already.

Health Minister John Nilson said the province's plan will be to meet its own goals but they'll also be comparing wait times with national standards.

"With what's set out nationally, you only work in narrow little bands. And what we've tried to do in Saskatchewan is say, 'Every person that requires surgery should have some ability to be compared to everybody else,' "he said.
Note that Saskatchewan's current numbers already reflect what seems a fairly sensible prioritization. The province is well ahead of the benchmark for bypass surgeries, and well behind for knee and hip replacements...and that relative priority level seems a far more accurate reflection of the urgency involved than prioritizing both equally as the federal benchmark appears to do.

Of course, it's still necessary to try to improve in those areas where a province is currently behind, and Saskatchewan's plan should enable it to meet all the benchmarks by 2007. But the numbers set in yesterday's agreement shouldn't override common sense in managing health priorities...and the obvious gap between the two has to lead to questions as to how useful the benchmarks really are.

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