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Ombudsman Report Finds Issues With Breast Cancer Wait List Management and Notes Improvements


News Release

For Release on September 29, 2011 at 11:00 a.m.


Today, Ombudsman Kevin Fenwick released A Matter of Time: An Investigation into the Management of Wait Lists for Breast Cancer Treatment in Saskatchewan. In this review of the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, Fenwick found that patients who had surgery for Stage I or II breast cancer and required chemotherapy could not find out how long they would have to wait for an oncologist appointment. He said, “Dealing with breast cancer is very difficult and some patients were frustrated when they felt they couldn’t get enough information about wait times.”

Such was the case with “Mrs. X,” a woman whose complaint in 2009 sparked the review. Mrs. X believed she was not getting the information she felt she needed and was worried that she would not receive chemotherapy soon enough after her surgery. When she made inquires to the agency she felt that staff had been dismissive of her concerns. Fenwick said, “Waiting for care is never easy, but not knowing when you will receive care can be unnecessarily anxiety-provoking.”

During the course of the Ombudsman’s investigation, the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency also reviewed the matter and was in the process of making a number of changes to its leadership, administration, technology and processes. Fenwick said, “The organization we investigated is very different from the organization that is in place today and most of our recommendations have either been accepted or are under consideration.”

Even though most of Fenwick’s 16 recommendations have already been accepted he believes the investigation’s findings should be shared with the public and made available to other health organizations that are managing wait lists. The recommendations include:

  • a review of the administrative processes involved.
  • merging the Regina and Saskatoon wait lists.
  • use of electronic medical records as a basis for the wait list.
  • better communication with community doctors.
  • provision of wait time estimates to patients who ask.
  • navigational assistance for patients who require assistance while waiting for a first appointment with an oncologist.

The investigation did not review diagnosis, treatment or other clinical elements. These are outside the Ombudsman’s mandate and there were no concerns raised about these matters.

The report is available online.

The Ombudsman is an Officer of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan who promotes and protects fairness in the design and delivery of government services, including the administration of health services. The Ombudsman’s office provides a range of services, including investigation, negotiation and mediation. His jurisdiction of government administration includes any ministry, branch, board, agency or commission responsible to the Crown, and any public servant in Saskatchewan. The Ombudsman operates under The Ombudsman and Children's Advocate Act.

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Media Contact:
Leila Dueck
Director of Communications
Ombudsman Saskatchewan
Phone: 306-787-7369
Cell: 306-531-5405
E-mail: ldueck@ombudsman.sk.ca

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