Wait times to see a specialist and for surgery
Understanding your wait time to see a specialist or get surgery can be complicated.
We’re here to help. Get information and advice about wait times in Ontario.
See wait times for surgeries and proceduresSee other wait times we track
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Specialists/surgeries we track
We track wait times to see a surgical specialist and to get surgery in these categories:
- Surgeries for children (pediatric patients)
- Cancer surgeries
- Cardiac (heart) surgeries and procedures
- Eye surgeries (e.g. cataract)
- Orthopedic (bone) surgeries (e.g. hip and knee replacement)
- Other surgeries and procedures (e.g. kidney stone removal, hernia repair)
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.
Your family doctor refers you to a specialist.
The number of days between your specialist getting the referral from your family doctor and your first appointment with the specialist.
You meet with the specialist.
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.
You and your specialist decide to go ahead with surgery.
The number of days from when you and your specialist decide you will have surgery to actually having the surgery.
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.
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 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.
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:
"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!"
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.
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
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