Frequently Asked Questions



What is a wait time?

A wait time is how long an individual waits for a diagnostic test, surgery or treatment.

When does a wait time start and end?

There is much discussion around the starting point for wait times. To ensure consistency across the country, all provinces and territories have agreed that the measurement of wait times should start when the physician determines that the patient is medically ready, and the patient consents to treatment, as indicated by the request for the service. The wait time ends when the patient receives the service.

What is a wait list?

A wait list is a record of patients awaiting treatment. Traditionally, the lists have been maintained by individual physicians and facilities. Patients that require emergency care are not put on a wait list.

What is a Benchmark?

Benchmarks express the amount of time that is appropriate to wait for a particular service or procedure. The benchmarks used in reporting wait times were established by  Federal and Provincial Ministers of Health and are based on clinical evidence aimed at providing quality, timely and appropriate health care to all Canadians.

What is a median wait time?

A median wait time is the point in time when half of the patients received their treatment performed. For example, if a median wait time for surgery is four weeks, half of patients have waited less than four weeks and half have waited more than four weeks. It reflects what a "typical" patient might have experienced.

How are wait times managed?

Wait times are a shared responsibility of health care providers, regional health authorities, The Department of Health and Community services, and individuals. Physicians assess patient need, determine urgency of treatment, and place patients accordingly on a wait list or other treatment path. Regional health authorities plan and deliver health services in the regions and communities. The Department of Clinical Effectiveness, Quality Management and Research of Western Health is currently building a wait list management program to address issues around access to elective outpatient health services. In partnership with all health care providers, we are committed to improving access to service for all people in Western Newfoundland and Labrador.

Who goes on a wait list?

Only those patients who have consented to treatment and are medically able to receive their treatment are placed on a wait list.  Patients who are determined by their doctor or nurse practitioner to be an emergency are not put on a wait list.

Can I get care sooner?

Depending on your situation, you may request a referral to another physician with a shorter wait list to possibly receive your care sooner. If you discuss your options with your doctor and are prepared to go for surgery on short notice you may reduce your wait time.If your condition changes while you are waiting, you should always consult your doctor.

Why are wait times different throughout the province?

Wait times vary from one procedure to another, from one specialist to another, and from one facility to another. Some reasons include:

  • Some surgeons are in your community might have larger practices and/or longer waiting lists
  • Some specialists only perform certain procedures or work part-time
  • Some procedures require specialized staff and facilities

How is data accuracy determined?

Wait time information is submitted by facilities and regional health authorities, who are responsible for its accuracy. All the health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador together with our health care partners are working together to develop standards for consistent and accurate reporting.

What should I ask my doctor or nurse practitioner?

When it comes to your health, it is important to discuss all options with your physician or nurse practitioner.

If you are scheduled for treatment or a diagnostic test, you may want to ask your family doctor, specialist or nurse practitioner the following questions:

  • Why do I need this treatment or test?
  • Can you describe the treatment or test?
  • How necessary and how urgent is this treatment or test?
  • What are the risks and benefits of this treatment or test?
  • When can I expect to have my treatment or test?
  • What can I do to prepare for this treatment or test?
  • What should I do if my condition changes while I wait? 
  • Can I get this test or treatment sooner?
  • Who will coordinate my care after my treatment if I get it somewhere else?
  • Why do I need to see a specialist?
  • How long will I have to wait to see the specialist? 

The Wait Time website is for information purposes only and acts as a guide for both doctors and patients on wait times at facilities throughout the western region. 
Please contact your doctor or other health care provider if you have any questions or concerns around your own health care issues.