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Wait times not growing, but inequities still exist, ICES report shows


On the heels of the Ontario government’s recent $222.5-million investment to further reduce wait times for treatment in five key areas, the findings of the 2nd edition of the ICES Atlas, Access to Health Services in Ontario, indicate that although wait times are not growing, there are still significant inequities in access to the key services depending on where a person lives and depending on their income.

“This in-depth analysis and first update to ICES’ original 2005 landmark report demonstrates that the steady increases in the rates of service provision for the five key services identified in Ontario’s Wait Times Strategy seems to have stopped the growth in wait times”, said Dr. Andreas Laupacis, president and CEO, ICES. “However, there are still serious geographical and socioeconomic inequities in access to these procedures.”

The 2nd edition of the Atlas focuses on changes in rates of service and wait times between 2003/04 and 2004/05. In addition, this year’s report includes wait times by age and gender and socioeconomic status, as well as patient outcomes for joint replacement surgery, cardiac bypass surgery and cataract surgery.

Key Findings

  • Over the past decade, and between 2003/04 and 2004/05, rates of service provision increased for all of the key services identified in the Ontario Wait Times Strategy.
  • Wait times for the key services have not increased, and have decreased for cardiac procedures.
  • There continue to be significant variations in rates of service provision for key procedures across Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), with some LHINs having rates of service that are more than twice as high as rates in other LHINs.
  • Compared to 2003/04, individuals from wealthier neighbourhoods were more likely to access services in 2004/05. Wealthier individuals were also more likely to receive nine out of the 12 procedures examined.

“The information in this new report will be important to assess the effectiveness of the Ontario Wait Times Strategy going forward and will also be important for decision-makers as they work to create a more equitable and responsive healthcare system in Ontario,” said ICES senior scientist and Atlas editor, Dr. Jack Tu.

“In the future, particular attention should be focused on expanding the services for which valid data are collected. This should include measuring indicators of appropriateness, monitoring inequities in access by socioeconomic status and region, and tracking the impact of resource allocation decisions based on rates of service provision and wait times.”

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.


  • Julie Dowdie
  • Media Relations Officer, ICES
  • (416) 480-4780 or cell (416) 432-8143


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