Table 2:

Impact of wait times communication themes and quotes

Communication receivedImpact (theme and exemplar quote)
Patients and family
Little or no informationLengthy wait with no answers
“I was expected to have my [colostomy] reversal surgery in May or June of 2020, and I never heard anything. And so I received a letter finally from the hospital saying we’re doing the procedure in July. So then I heard from my surgeon saying we’ll probably do your reversal surgery in November. And then I never heard, never heard, and then finally I received a letter saying I was having it in January so it was just waiting and not knowing and not receiving any information.” — Patient 4, PT Focus Group 1
“There was no possibility of getting in touch with anyone, which was very anxiety producing, when you’re left out in the unknown.” — Patient 8, PT Focus Group 2
Inability to plan for life or family
“The more informed the public is, they can make plans and decisions for their family, you know, just in case something happens.” — Patient 10, PT Focus Group 2
Anxiety, depression
“Because this incident caused me to have to abandon a lot of activity that I was doing, it created a lot of anxiety for me and a depressive state, because I had to change the way I was going about my life.” — Patient 8, PT Focus Group 2
Concern about disease progression and survival
“But for someone who’s just been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, time is of the essence and I just felt like a ticking time bomb.” — Patient 10, PT Focus Group 2
COVID-19 has priority over other conditionsFelt guilty for receiving care despite COVID-19 priority
“And I felt bad because I even though the incident was unexpected for me, I went to emerg that day.” — Patient 8, PT Focus Group 2
Confusion about who was getting treatment
“I would hear of people who had surgeries, and I was like okay, somebody did have a knee surgery, so I guess some people are getting in, but it wasn’t clear to me how that was all being decided.” — Patient 2, PT Focus Group 1
Frustration with being considered unimportant
“I felt like it didn’t matter that I was dying of cancer. I felt like I would only matter if I had COVID. Clearly not what anybody would say. But all these beds were being reserved for COVID patients in my case. Not even necessarily being used, they were sort of set aside for a potential case, when I’m sitting there with a definite need for it, and still being placed on the sidelines to wait.” — Patient 10, PT Focus Group 2
Not safe to go to hospitalConcern about risk of untreated condition versus contracting SARS-CoV-2
“What you’re going through is life-threatening. There’s a chance you could contract COVID, but there’s 100% chance you could have a fatal condition that needs immediate attention.” — Patient 11, PT Focus Group 2
Patients avoid seeking care or turn to the private sector
“It may make people hesitate to go in. The other drawback is they’re going to do health care tourism if they can afford it. It’s making a good case unfortunately for the private sector for those who can afford it.” — Patient 8, PT Focus Group 2
Surgery could be cancelled at any timeAnxiety about being bumped and forgotten
“I got bumped twice and then forgotten. If I hadn’t called in September, I would not have gotten my procedure in October.” — Patient 8, PT Focus Group 2
Health care leaders
Little or no informationLittle notice or time to prepare for ramp-up or shutdown
“One of the most significant challenges is the starting and stopping. There’s a lack of appreciation of all of the lead time that is required in order to get things done.” — Health care leader 20, HCL Focus Group 5
Lack of information to convey to patients
“Up until a few months ago, we were just telling patients you’re just going to wait and we can’t tell you exactly when we’re going to get going again.” — Health care leader 5, HCL Focus Group 2
Confused by conflicting information
“Where it started to get complicated was where we were hearing ramp-up, ramp-up, but don’t ramp-up. But you still have to staff ICU [intensive care unit], and you don’t have staff, but still ramp-up and we’ll give you money, but there’s no staff.” — Health care leader 16, HCL Focus Group 4
No direction or support from health system
I know there was $300 million the government has announced. I don’t know if all the hospitals got something or not. I hear informally, not a lot. And then there was a $35 million fund that I don’t think anyone got. We applied, we haven’t heard anything. — Health care leader 8, HCL Focus Group 2
Situation is back to normalStill struggling with backlogs and how to prioritize patients
“The, the messaging, we’re getting recently though is that they’re looking at our numbers and saying, oh you know you’re pretty close to pre-COVID numbers in terms of what you’re accomplishing so I think you guys are good. We’re totally not good, it’s not addressing the backlog at all because it’s actually just kind of meeting even.” — Health care leader 6, HCL Focus Group 2
Concern for staff well-beingHealth care staff are getting no relief
“A lot of mixed messages come from different leadership, either local senior leadership teams and/or government. Things like, everybody take care of themselves, try and get time off, yet the expectation is that you never have time off, and that you’re always at the end of your phone and managing.” — Health care leader 20, HCL Focus Group 5
Single or unified approachEach hospital or region has unique needs
“It feels like we’re trying to act as a singular entity, yet the infrastructure doesn’t exist to support that. We all have local collective agreements, local nuances to all of our staffing, local nuances to the type of work we do and don’t do, because some of us are specialty hospitals and others are community teaching hospitals like mine.” — Health care leader 20, HCL Focus Group 5
Lack of operating room timeOncology procedures are prioritized over others
“When we looked at the stats, the oncology patients are actually getting in on time so it seems like there’s a disconnect between what’s being said and what’s actually happening. So at the level of nononcology cases, we’re really working hard to try and advocate for that, but it’s been challenging.” — Health care leader 11, HCL Focus Group 3
  • Note: HCL = health care leader, PT = patient.