St. Joseph's General Hospital Health Care with Compassion  
Wait Times

Understanding Wait Times

What is a wait list?

A wait list is how physicians and hospitals keep track of people who need specialized medical care, such as heart surgery, MRIs, and hip and knee replacements. A wait list allows physicians to prioritize their patients by the urgency of the treatment they need. There is no single wait list for all British Columbia residents scheduled for surgery.

What is a wait time?

A wait time is how long you must wait for a specific procedure. You may experience several separate wait times from when you first notice a health problem until your treatment is completed. In British Columbia, as in other jurisdictions, we measure the time you wait from when the procedure is formally booked in the hospital, until it is actually carried out. (See the Wait Times Clock below)

Wait Times Clock
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Why do we have wait times?

Wait times occur when there are more patients needing health services than the system can treat immediately. Increasing demand can cause a wait time to lengthen and may have a number of contributing factors such as a growing and an aging population that relies more on health care, or from advancements that allow more types of diagnosis and treatments.

What is a reasonable wait time?

Wait times depend on the type of procedure and the circumstances of the individual patient. British Columbia has set benchmarks for the optimal time in which a patient should be treated for a selective procedure with an overall standard of completing elective surgeries within 52 weeks or less. These standards will serve as targets and tell you how the health system is performing.

Who will go on a wait list?

A patient needing emergency surgery is treated as quickly as possible and does not go on a wait list. Anyone needing surgery or treatment that is not an emergency will be placed on a wait list.

What influences my wait time?

Wait times are influenced by a variety of factors such as :

  • The urgency of your illness - patients with illnesses that are not considered life threatening may wait longer because a hospital's operating room time is prioritized for more serious cases.
  • The caseload of your surgeon - some specialists have shorter wait times than others.
  • The resources available to your hospital - Changes in the capacity of particular hospitals or regions to carry out the procedure;
  • Increasing demand for health services in your community and region.