Did you know that each time a patient does not come for their scheduled appointment or procedure the wait list grows?

This is because the no show time slot goes unused instead of being booked for another patient who is waiting, and another appointment slot has to be used to rebook the patient who missed their appointment.

Understanding Wait Times

Access to health care services is needed for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions. Timely access to care remains a priority for Western Health as longer wait times can be stressful and emotional for patients and their families. Improving wait times requires actions to improve access without sacrificing good quality care.


What is a wait list?

A wait list is a way to keep track of how many patients are waiting for a service. Being put on a waitlist is not on a first come, first served basis. A wait list is like an imaginary waiting room where people needing more urgent care are called in first. The list may be maintained by individual physicians and/or facilities.

Patients that require emergency care are not put on a wait list.

How do you determine who is seen?

When you require a surgery or procedure, your doctor will decide your urgency to be seen.  For example, a person who requires the same procedure as you do may have other reasons why they should be done sooner than you. The urgency can be based on an assessment, your health if you wait, or simply related to a person’s ability to take care of his or her self.  Your physician will decide your need as

  1. Emergent - You have a life threatening condition that needs attention right away.  For this you will not be placed on a wait list (An example of this would be emergency surgery for a bowel obstruction)
  2. Urgent - You need treatment but it is not an emergency. In this instance you will generally wait a shorter time than non-urgent treatment. 
  3. Elective/Non Urgent - You need surgery but your condition is not considered to pose a threat to your life or health. (An example of this would be a hip or knee surgery to improve movement)

What is a wait time?

A wait time is how long a patient waits for diagnostic test, surgery, or treatment. Wait time is based on the time when the patient is ready for the procedure and receives the service they are waiting for. Waiting times for services are often reported as median wait times.

What is a reasonable time to wait?

Wait times depend on the treatment needed and the physical condition of each patient. Patients needing urgent treatment will get treatment before non-urgent.

Factors Affecting Wait List:

Many factors that affect wait times some examples include:

  • Patient Choice – a patient may decide to delay treatment for personal or family reasons.
  • Patient Condition – treatment may be delayed if a patient becomes unwell and cannot go ahead with the treatment..
  • No Show –treatment will be delayed for the patient receiving the care as well as others waiting for the service.
  • Treatment Complexity – a patient with special requirements may need extra care and treatment may take extra time to schedule/plan.

What is a median wait time?

Median wait time: The point at which half the patients have had their treatment and the other half are still waiting. It means fifty percent (50%) of the patients have received care.

For example, a median wait time of 4 weeks means that half of the patients waited less than 4 weeks, and half waited more than 4 weeks. This method is used in all health authorities across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador when reporting to the Department of Health and Community Services.

Factors Affecting Wait Time Data:

  • Variability - Wait time data can change dramatically from month to month. It can be affected by seasons, staffing, and factors involving equipment.
  • Small Volumes - wait time calculation based on a very small number of patients over a very short period of time can be misleading, since a few patients with unusually long or short wait times may have a very large influence on the results for that month.

While Waiting….

Wait time information is meant to act as a guide for patients and doctors on wait times.

It is important to discuss all treatment options with your doctor. When you discuss options with your provider consider your ability to receive treatment on short notice as well as your ability to travel throughout the region.  You may also discuss with your doctor being referred to the physician or facility with the shorter wait list and possibly receive care sooner.

If your condition changes while you are waiting for treatment, services, or surgery please consult your physician.

Questions you may have about your waiting times 

Wait Time Reporting

In  2005, National wait time targets were established in five (5) priority areas: radiation therapy, coronary bypass surgery, hip and knee replacements, hip fracture repair, cataract surgery, and diagnostics. Western Health has worked with the Department of Health and Community Services to collect and report wait time information as well as improve access in five priority areas: Cancer Care, Joint Replacement, Cardiac Care, Vision Restoration and Diagnostic Imaging.

Facilities get information from physicians and operating rooms or scheduling systems. This information is checked by each regional health authority and is submitted monthly and/or quarterly to the Department of Health and Community Services.

You can find information about wait times for some services by regions within the province where the services are provided on the Department of Health and Community Services website.