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Ottawa Hospital: Surgical delays increase risk of death

According to a groundbreaking study at The Ottawa Hospital, which was published Monday, July 10, in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, patients who have their emergency surgery delayed have a higher risk of death.

Records show that out of the 15,160 emergency surgeries between Jan. 2012 and Oct. 2014, almost 19% faced a delay. Records also show that 3.2% of non-delayed patients died compared the 4.9% of delayed patients.

The study also reveals that almost a third of those delays are due to lack of personal, mostly surgeons.  Other reasons that caused delays include lack of available operating rooms and being bumped by bumped by cases with higher priority.

Delayed emergency surgeries also lead to longer hospital stays and higher medical cost.

Dr. Alan Forster, the study’s senior author and the hospital’s vice-president of quality, performance and population health stressed the importance of timely emergency surgery.

“In health care, like in any business, there are competing priorities. You need evidence to inform those decisions. The data says this is a priority, and if we don’t spend money on this, there will be other costs,” said Forster.

In an effort to complete more emergency surgeries on time, The Ottawa Hospital began a new method for organizing surgeries in Jan 2013. They found that by distributing elective surgeries throughout the week, they can accomplish this.

The hospital has had a lot of success with setting up a scale of priorities from A, being top priority, to E, for lowest priority.

“If there is an association, which we’ve demonstrated, we need to develop those standards,” said Forster.

They’ve also found that leaving a certain amount of operating rooms empty in cases of emergency helps the surgical teams cope with unpredictability.

Foster points out that timely access to health care is not a problem unique to Canada, it’s an international issue.

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