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April 27, 2006

Judie Havers
Corporate Communications, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 58738

Wait times and quality improving

LONDON, Ontario – Results of the 2006 Cancer System Quality Index show that progress has been made to improve cancer treatment wait times and quality, but more needs to be done to improve cancer screening rates and increase access to end of life care outside of hospitals. The London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP), London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), is committed to continuing to work towards further improvements in access, wait times, and quality of care.

The Index is a public web site that uses 25 measures to assess cancer system performance.

“After one full year, the Cancer System Quality Index is proving to be a powerful tool that health professionals and organizations are using to improve cancer care,” said Michael Decter, chair, Cancer Quality Council of Ontario. “This year, regional cancer providers and policy makers can compare cancer care in each Local Health Integration Network so that they can tackle local problems more effectively”.

The Index tracks Ontario's progress against five goals:

  1. Improve access to services and reduce wait times
  2. Better outcomes of cancer care
  3. Increase use of evidence when treating cancer
  4. Improve efficiency of cancer care resources
  5. Improve measurement and reporting of cancer system quality

The Cancer System Quality index highlights areas of progress by region. The following information is specific to LRCP:

  • The wait time to access radiation treatment in 2004 was, on average, 6.5 weeks. LRCP continues to recruit additional specialists and add new technologies that will allow us to manage the increasing numbers of patients needing radiation treatment.
  • The wait time to access chemotherapy in 2004 was, on average, 5.3 weeks. The recruitment of additional medical oncologists will help to reduce this time further.
  • Wait times for cancer surgery have seen some improvement with 75% of patients having their surgery within the 12 week provincial guideline. The availability of anaesthetists, nursing staff and operating room time continue to impact the wait times for cancer surgery.
  • One in 6 Ontarians are daily smokers with the Southwest region reporting higher numbers.

Although survival rates for all cancers across Ontario increased from 51% to 59%, the issue of end of life care has been highlighted as an area for improvement across the province. In the Southwest region, 54% of cancer patients died in a hospital. Current research indicates that the majority of patients prefer to die outside of hospital, with support from palliative care practitioners.

The establishment of strong regional partnerships remains an important focus for LRCP in it’s efforts to connect providers for optimum patient care across the region.

“The Southwest Region has established the Regional Cancer Services Alliance (RCSA),” says Dr. Brian Dingle, Acting Regional Vice President and Senior Medical Director at LRCP. “The RCSA is a collaboration of many organizations involved in caring for cancer patients. The idea is to share responsibility and accountability for providing care and for implementing system-wide improvements in the delivery of cancer services.”

The RCSA will partner with Cancer Care Ontario to plan and coordinate services across programs and providers. The CSQI will be an important tool in helping to identify those areas that need attention in prevention, screening and treatment. Province wide efforts are needed to tackle smoking and obesity issues. Efforts must be made to reduce chemotherapy and radiation therapy wait times, and access to care in the home. Improvements are needed to stay ahead of the increasing need for cancer services. In 2006, 62,000 Ontarians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer. It is anticipated that this number will climb to 86,000 in 2016. In the Southwest Region, the current number of new cancer cases is 5,023.

The Cancer Quality Council of Ontario monitors and reports to the public on the quality and performance of the cancer system. Cancer Care Ontario is an umbrella organization that steers and coordinates Ontario’s cancer services and prevention efforts so that fewer people get cancer and patients receive the highest quality of care. To access the full Index, go to www.cancercare.on.ca/qualityindex/2006

London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is one of Canada’s largest acute-care teaching hospitals and is dedicated to excellence in patient care, teaching and research. LHSC has pioneered many national and international medical breakthroughs. Located in London, Ontario, LHSC encompasses three sites, South Street Hospital, University Hospital and Victoria Hospital; two family medical centres; and the London Regional Cancer Program. LHSC is the home of the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario and CSTAR (Canadian Surgical Technologies & Advanced Robotics). The research arm of LHSC is Lawson Health Research Institute, which is partnered with London’s other teaching hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Care, London. LHSC is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. Physicians and staff at LHSC number close to 8,000 and together they provide care for more than 600,000 patients each year.