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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 24, Issue 1, Pages 20-25
Original Article

Survey of Access to GastroEnterology in Canada: The SAGE Wait Times Program

Desmond Leddin,1 Ronald J Bridges,2 David G Morgan,3 Carlo Fallone,4 Craig Render,5 Victor Plourde,6 Jim Gray,7 Connie Switzer,8 Jim McHattie,9 Harminder Singh,10 Eric Walli,10 Iain Murray,11 Anthony Nestel,12 Paul Sinclair,13 Ying Chen,3 and E Jan Irvine14

1Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
2University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
3McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
4McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
5Kelowna General Hospital, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
6Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
7University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
8University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
9Regina General Hospital, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
10University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
11Intestinal Health Institute, Markham, Ontario, Canada
12South Shore Regional Hospital, Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, Canada
13Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, Oakville, Canada
14University of Toronto and St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Received 13 October 2009; Accepted 23 October 2009

Copyright © 2010 Canadian Association of Gastroenterology. This open-access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (CC BY-NC) (, which permits reuse, distribution, and reproduction of the article, provided that the original work is properly cited and the reuse is restricted to noncommercial purposes.


BACKGROUND: Assessment of current wait times for specialist health services in Canada is a key method that can assist government and health care providers to plan wisely for future health needs. These data are not readily available. A method to capture wait time data at the time of consultation or procedure has been developed, which should be applicable to other specialist groups and also allows for assessment of wait time trends over intervals of years.

METHODS: In November 2008, gastroenterologists across Canada were asked to complete a questionnaire (online or by fax) that included personal demographics and data from one week on at least five consecutive new consultations and five consecutive procedure patients who had not previously undergone a procedure for the same indication. Wait times were collected for 18 primary indications and results were then compared with similar survey data collected in 2005.

RESULTS: The longest wait times observed were for screening colonoscopy (201 days) and surveillance of previous colon cancer or polyps (272 days). The shortest wait times were for cancer-likely based on imaging or physical examination (82 days), severe or rapidly progressing dysphagia or odynophagia (83 days), documented iron-deficiency anemia (90 days) and dyspepsia with alarm symptoms (99 days). Compared with 2005 data, total wait times in 2008 were lengthened overall (127 days versus 155 days; P<0.05) and for most of the seven individual indications that permitted data comparison.

CONCLUSION: Median wait times for gastroenterology services continue to exceed consensus conference recommended targets and have significantly worsened since 2005.