Waiting lists are another topic of considerable debate. Frequently in Canada, we hear people complain about the length of time they must wait before they receive a relatively minor diagnostic or treatment procedure. Health policy experts from other countries criticize the Canadian healthcare system because of our reliance on waiting lists, which they see as a means to "ration" health services. Analysis of the experiences of other countries shows that waiting lists are a complex problem that is prone to media scrutiny if the public perceives the balance between access and availability of services to be in jeopardy. Waiting lists, and how they are handled, evoke emotional outbursts from physicians and policy-makers, to the media and the public, but as yet we have not been able to come up with an acceptable solution.
In this issue of Hospital Quarterly, we report on three studies that looked closely at the challenges inherent in waiting lists. The Western Canada Waiting List Project was funded in part by Health Canada's Health Transition Fund. It was an ambitious analysis of the problems associated with waiting lists for elective procedures in the four western provinces. Input for the study was extensive, with participation from provincial governments, regional health authorities and other healthcare providers. The investigators also solicited feedback from the public, who seemed somewhat amazed that the myriad of healthcare providers and policy-makers had not been able to develop a comprehensive, fair and ethical system for setting priorities for waiting lists. In Ontario, the Joint Policy Planning Committee has worked extensively to provide information to the Ontario Hospital Association and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to enhance understanding of waiting list issues. Peter Glynn, who is an experienced policy-maker at provincial and federal levels and who has also served as the CEO of one of Ontario's academic health sciences centers, recently completed a study of the waiting list situation in Saskatchewan and the highlights of that study are reported here.
Also in this issue is a timely article on private-sector marketing strategies by Keenleyside. It offers a range of new ideas for communicating with organizational stakeholders. We include an in-depth review of an evidence-based approach to building healthier workplaces through collaboration by Yassi and colleagues in Vancouver. A profile of Dr Noni MacDonald, Dean of Medicine at Dalhousie University, provides considerable food for thought on a range of topics including altering of healthcare systems and the need for humanity in medicine. We are also pleased to present topical columns from ICES, POLLARA and the The Berger Population Health Monitor.
I would also recommend readers review the two latest editions of HealthcarePapers. The first issue tackles the thorny question of reforming Canada's Academic Health Sciences Centres. The second, a special edition, offers a range of opinions and comments on the implications of Alberta's Mazankowski Report. Both can be accessed at www.healthcarepapers.com. As always we are pleased to hear from readers. Please send your ideas, suggestions and comments to email@example.com.
About the Author(s)
Peggy Leatt, Ph.D
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