British Columbia sends patients to Seattle for coronary artery surgery. Bypassing the queue in Canada

JAMA. 1991 Aug 28;266(8):1108-11.


Concern about waiting lists for elective procedures has become a highly visible challenge to the universal health insurance program in Canada. In response to lengthening queues for patients waiting for cardiac surgery, British Columbia made contracts with four Seattle hospitals to send a total of 200 patients for coronary artery bypass surgery. This article examines the cause of the queue for cardiac surgery in British Columbia and the events that led to outside contracting. Global hospital budgets and restrictions on capital expansion have limited hospital capacity for cardiac surgery. This constrained supply, combined with periodic shortages in critical care nurses and cardiac perfusion technologists, has resulted in a rapid increase in the waiting list. Reducing wide variations in the lengths of queues for individual surgeons may afford an opportunity to reduce long waits. While the patient queue for cardiac surgery has sparked a public debate about budget limits and health care needs, its clinical impact remains uncertain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • British Columbia
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / economics
  • Coronary Disease / economics
  • Coronary Disease / surgery*
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Surgical / organization & administration
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / economics
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Transfer Agreement*
  • Waiting Lists*
  • Washington