A doctor from Ontario, Canada says one of her patients had to wait nearly half a decade—just to see a health care specialist.
Dr. Joy Hataley, a family practice anesthetist in Kingston, Ont., recently tried to send a patient to a neurologist at the Kingston General Hospital.
Instead, she received a letter from the specialist’s office informing her that the current wait time for new patient referrals is 4.5 years, CTV News reported.
The letter stated that if the delay is deemed “unacceptable” to Hateley, she could try to refer the patient to an Ottawa or Toronto hospital.
The doctor told CTV that the wait time “shocked” her. She has spoken before about wait times and other issues affecting Ontario’s health care system.
Hateley tweeted a photo of the letter on Wednesday, Nov. 1 and tagged Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins and Kingston-area MPP Sophie Kiwala. In the tweet’s description, she wrote: “SOS Please explain.”
— Joy Hataley (@JoyHataley) November 1, 2017
Both politicians did not reply to her tweet, as of writing on Friday, Nov. 3.
Hataley said wait times are not something new and said she is used to hearing back from specialists who are unable to see her patients for months. In one case there was even a 2.5 year wait—but the recent 4.5 year referral was just “insane”, she told CTV News.
“This is an alarm bell,” she told the Canadian network. “What it is to me is a red flag to the system.”
Hataley said her patient’s case is not considered urgent, stating that the woman will likely travel outside of Kingston to see a neurologist within a reasonable amount of time. But she noted that traveling for healthcare can cost a considerable amount.
She stressed that wait times for neurologists in Kingston are notoriously bad, adding that the problem is not restricted to an individual neurologist or even a particular field.
With 20 years of experience working in the healthcare industry and having participated in countless discussions on wait times, Hataley said they have all lead nowhere.
“We’ve hit the wall,” Hataley told CTV News. “My main message is: we need timely, consistent and reliable health care in our province and we do not have it.”
Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, chief of staff and vice-president of medical affairs at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre echoed Hataley’s comments on wait times: “A challenge that is well known at all levels of our system,” CTV News reported.
He said wait times change across medical specialties and even within specific fields, such as the neurology sub-specialty of movement disorders, where Hataley’s patient was referred to.
Fitzpatrick said there were only a small number of specialists in Ontario to treat patients with movement disorders.
“We are the only clinic of our kind located between Toronto and Ottawa, and often receive referrals from a very large catchment area,” he said. “We have just recently recruited a new physician, which we believe will improve wait times and we hope to do more recruitment soon.”