Timely Access to Care

Wait times in medicine and health care have been the subject of long debate in Canada. How long someone must wait to see a doctor, to get an appointment, to be seen once at the doctor’s office, how long to receive a diagnostic test and the result, how long to be admitted to hospital, how long to get a bed on a ward (as opposed to waiting in a hallway), and how long to be cured. These are recurrent topics of debate and media coverage. Clearly, the notion of “wait times” is broad, relating to any of the “times” between wanting to see a health care provider, to treatment and cure. It is also not always clear in media or personal reports who is waiting and what she or he is waiting for.

Waiting for quality health care services is an important concern for Canadian women as the primary providers and recipients of care. However, despite evidence that shows that a wide range of social, economic and geographical conditions affect wait times and wait lists, current definitions and benchmarks are not informed by gender-based analysis.

Applying GBA to wait times points to a need to expand the concept of wait times to “timely access to care”: broadening the concept of wait times to include the causes of illness, the approaches to diagnosis and treatment, the experiences of waiting, and the outcomes of care. Timely access means a consideration of women's roles as providers, patients and decision-makers, and takes into account women’s concerns when waiting for good quality and appropriate health care.

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