Navigating BC Surgical Wait Times: When to Travel For Surgery

Medical wait times in BC are longer than ever.  Following the pandemic medical staff are burned out, facilities are understaffed and it has left patients waiting for weeks or even months before being able to access necessary treatments or procedures. Prolonged wait times aren’t just inconvenient, they can lead to worsened conditions and a distinct drop in quality of life.

While on a wait list patients will experience worsening physical conditions and reduced mobility but there are also unseen issues at work. Delaying surgical procedures can also have an economic impact in the case of inability to maintain a physical work schedule. With all of this in mind, it is becoming common practice to seek surgical services outside of British Columbia.

BC Surgical Wait Times

Understanding Surgical Wait Times in British Columbia

For patients in need of surgery, you are more often than not dealing with three different types of wait time instead of one. As of October 2023, it was reported that 1 in 4 BC residents don’t have a family doctor (GP). This means struggling to find a walk-in clinic that will accept patients and in the case of specialized care, provides referrals.

For those residents that do have a family physician wait times are broken up into three separate steps. First you will wait to see your GP for a referral, wait to see a specialist and finally, wait to receive the surgical procedure itself. This means waiting weeks between appointments and months before surgeries are performed. There is a lot that can happen in the months between an initial symptom report and the operating room.

The expected wait time for orthopaedic surgeries in BC is 26.9 weeks. That is half a year! This number also does not include the initial diagnosis or referral phase. Prolonged periods of waiting for surgery is not a new issue. It is easy to point at the pandemic as having accelerated wait lists but the local Health Authority has marked prolonged wait times as an issue for decades. In fact, the BC Ministry of Health implemented a series of benchmarks for reasonable wait times as early as 2006.

Seeking Surgical Care Abroad: Skip Long Waiting Lists With Medical Tourism

The lack of available surgical care is a major problem for Canadians from coast to coast. In fact, more patients place improved surgical wait times at a higher priority level than new National Drug Plans.

As of March 2023 there was an estimated nearly 10,000 British Columbians waiting for hip and knee replacements. For those waiting on spinal surgery the wait times can exceed a year from diagnosis to treatment. Rather than learning to manage pain and struggling during this timeframe, more and more residents of BC are choosing to seek medical care elsewhere. This can include other provinces or other countries.

For those considering travelling for surgical care, it is important to thoroughly research the processes, benefits and risks. A reputable agency like Venture Surgical provides referrals to clinics, physicians and even travel agents.

Navigating BC Surgical Wait Times: When to Travel For Surgery