PSA: Health Referrals Delayed?

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Separate and apart from those well publicized “elective-surgery” delays, one of COVID-19’s hidden implications is its impacting access to a Medical Specialist consultation. Known as “Wait One”, BC’s Ministry of Health attempts to track the time between the date a Medical Specialist receives a Patient’s referral from their Family Physician and the first consultation date with the Specialist. However, a key is each referral has a 6-month MSP lifespan. Even though many Specialists were cancelling appointments due to COVID-19, MSP’s 6-month expiry clock continued to run without interruption.

Having anticipated some of the economic and health costs COVID-19 would create for BC’s Medical Referral program, in April 2020 I wrote the Minister of Health suggesting investigating some form of Specialist Referral Extension program. With some clients having recently experienced the 6-month expiration, aside from the risk of deteriorating health, in my Province Newspaper’s Letter to The Editor published on August 28, 2020 I wrote this will create:

• Overwhelming requests for access to a patient’s family physician;
• Redundant MSP billings at the original care provider level;
• Based on a first-come-first-serve basis for scenario one, this has the potential for a further re-queuing delay in accessing the specialist, which is subject to the nature of the referral, may worsen the patient’s condition and potentially increase MSP costs in an attempt to address their potentially deteriorating health condition;
• An alternate patient strategy will simply attempt to access specialists through the expensive emergency room option.
Ian Callaway

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