Specialists/surgeries we track

We track wait times to see a surgical specialist and to get surgery in these categories:

When you can expect to wait

There are a few stops on the journey to getting surgery. We track wait times at two key points.

 
Doctor

Your family doctor refers you to a specialist.

 
 
From referral to specialist appointment

The number of days between your specialist getting the referral from your family doctor and your first appointment with the specialist.

You can search this data.

 
 
specialist

You meet with the specialist.

 
 
Tests and evaluation

The time it takes for you to get any tests (e.g. blood, x-ray, MRI), if necessary, or have further consultation with the specialist before they decide if you need surgery.

Because everyone’s situation is so unique, we can't track this wait period.

 
 
specialist

You and your specialist decide to go ahead with surgery.

 
 
From decision to surgery

The number of days from when you and your specialist decide you will have surgery to actually having the surgery.

You can search this data.

 
 
specialist

You have surgery.

 

What the numbers mean

When you check wait times for a first surgical appointment or surgery, you will have access to a lot of data. Here’s a preview of what the measurements mean and an example of how someone can use them to estimate their wait time and inform questions for their doctor.

Priority level

To help doctors and hospitals care for patients most in need first, doctors assign each patient a priority level of 1 to 4. For non-emergencies, priority 2 is the most urgent. (Priority 1 means emergency, so those patients are seen immediately and not included in this wait times data.)

Because priority levels are assigned based on specific criteria, you can be sure your wait time is appropriate for your condition.

Lori the patient

Meet Lori

Lori needs surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from her breast. The tumour is not growing quickly so her specialist has classified her as priority 3.

Target time

A target time is a common service standard that all specialists and hospitals in Ontario follow.

A common target time helps ensure your wait is fair and reasonable no matter which specialist or hospital you go to in Ontario.

Lori can see that, at the hospital where her specialist operates:

Lori the patient

"I'm booked to go on a short trip next week. It looks like my surgery won't happen before then, so I'm glad I can still go, as planned!"

Lori the patient

Trend over time

This graph shows you how the province and particular hospitals have performed when it comes to wait times over time.

example of a trend over time graph

By looking at the trend over time graph, Lori can see that the wait at the hospital where she’ll be having her surgery has been consistently under the target time for the last several months so her estimated wait time isn’t unusual.

Average wait by hospital

This is the average number of days patients waited for a first appointment or surgery at particular hospitals. You can also see an average for the province.

hospital wait times

Lori noticed that a couple of hospitals have shorter waits than the hospital she was referred to. So she asked her family doctor if she could see a specialist at one of those hospitals instead. Together, they discussed her situation and options. After, Lori felt confident with her doctor’s original choice because that hospital was closest to home.

Why some numbers are not available

If you see sections that say “no data,” there could be a few reasons why, such as:

  • the number of patients treated is too low to report
  • the service isn’t available at the hospital you’ve selected
  • there were no patients treated during the reporting period
  • the facility is new to reporting and has just started collecting data

See the full list of reasons why some data might not be available.

Options for reducing your wait time

Talk to your family doctor about how you may be able to reduce your wait time. You can:

  • tell your family doctor you’re willing to travel to a specialist with a shorter wait time
  • ask about getting treatment at a different hospital
  • tell your specialist you’re willing to go for diagnostic imaging appointments (e.g. x-ray, MRI, CT scan) on evenings, nights or weekends – those appointments may be available sooner
  • see if there is a cancellation list you could be added to, if you can be available on short notice when last-minute openings become available
  • make sure you follow any instructions about what to do before your appointment (e.g. limiting what you eat or drink for a period of time) so you don’t risk having to reschedule

See wait times for surgeries and procedures

Updated: September 23, 2021
Published: May 29, 2017