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Navigating Surgical Care

If you are considering surgery or you are already booked for surgery, you may have questions about how to plan your time and make sure you get the best care. This section provides some background and sources of information to help you be an active partner in decision-making and stay informed about expected wait times for your procedure.


1. Your Decision About Surgery

If you have a medical condition that can be treated by surgery, your physician might suggest a referral to a surgeon, who can consult with you about surgery and whether it will meet your needs. The decision to have surgery is always your decision.

If you are considering surgery, it is OK to ask questions of the surgeon. Some questions you might want to consider are:

  • Why is surgery necessary at this time?
  • What alternatives to surgery do I have?
  • What are the risks if I choose not to have the surgery?
  • Can you describe exactly what this surgery involves?
  • How many of these procedures do you perform each year?
  • What are the risks involved in this procedure?
  • How long will I have to wait for surgery?
  • If I have a flexible schedule, can I arrange to be contacted on short notice if there is a cancellation?
  • What do I do if my condition gets better or worse while I wait for surgery?
  • What can I do to help myself prepare for surgery?

More useful information about making a decision and preparing for surgery is available on HealthLine.


2. Wait Lists and Surgical Priority

Saskatchewan has a centralized wait list management system that keeps track of when patients were booked for surgery and how long they wait for their procedure. The objective is to ensure that people who waited longest are first in line, but the health system has to balance many complex factors when making up surgical schedules. The availability of surgical resources (like OR time) and the wait list of individual surgeons can also affect patients' wait time for specific procedures.

Saskatchewan's Specialist Directory is an on-line tool to help you find more information about which surgeons and locations have the longest wait times for specific procedures. If you have been advised that you need surgery, you can search for your procedure in the Specialist Directory to see a list of relevant surgeons and their estimated wait times.

You and your family doctor may use this information to decide where to send your referral for a surgical consultation. You may consider a referral to a surgeon in a location where wait times are lower – whether that is the hospital closest to your home, or in a different centre. Patients can be referred to any surgeon in the province by their family physician or nurse practitioner, as long as they are able to arrange their own travel.

Surgical priority is also a factor in wait list management. People who urgently need surgery are given priority in scheduling in order to meet clinical needs. Emergency surgeries are performed immediately (with minimal wait). All non-emergency surgery is called elective - this is the term for any procedure that is planned and scheduled in advance. Some elective surgery is urgent, and some is less urgent. A patient's surgical priority is assigned by the surgeon when he/she submits the booking to the scheduling system, but priority can be changed if the surgeon feels that the procedure has become more urgent.

Surgical priorities are:

Priority level General description Target
Priority 1 - emergency The patient could pass away if the surgery is not performed immediately 0 days
Priority 2 – urgent (cancer or non-cancer) The patient experiences severe, difficult to manage, potentially life-threatening symptoms that are worsening 3 weeks
Priority 3 – semi-urgent (cancer or non-cancer) The patient experiences severe pain or other symptoms, or suspicion of cancer, and their condition may worsen 6 weeks
Priority 4 – non-urgent elective (cancer or non-cancer) The patient experiences pain or other symptoms and conservative management is not an option or is no longer effective 3 months

Some people wish to pursue surgery out of province for various reasons. You can find information about out-of-province coverage.


3. Who to Call (Surgical Wait Time Inquiry Line)

If you are currently waiting for surgery and would like more information, you can contact the surgical care co-ordinator/local contact in the community where you will be having your procedure. You may also contact your surgeon’s office.

Surgical care co-ordinators provide a communication link between patients, their referring physician, and the Saskatchewan Health Authority. There is a full time surgical care co-ordinator in each city with a surgical hospital and/or private surgical centre to assist patients who will be receiving surgery there.

A surgical care co-ordinator may be able to help you by:

  • Confirming that you are on a wait list for surgery;
  • Giving you an estimated wait time for surgery;
  • Checking if you have an admission date to the hospital; and
  • Providing you with general information about hospital waiting lists, wait times and booking procedures.

Saskatoon Surgical Waitlist Inquiry Line
Toll-Free: 1-866-543-6767
Local: 306-655-0567

Regina Surgical Waitlist Inquiry Line
Toll-Free: 1-866-622-0222
Local: 306-766-0460

Hospital Contacts

Find a contact person or client representative in the list below who will be able to provide you with information about your wait time for surgery.

Local contacts
Surgical Centres Telephone number
Estevan 306-637-2424
Kindersley 306-463-1000 ext 2545
Lloydminster 306-820-6091
Meadow Lake 306-236-1503
Melfort 1-844-752-8849
Moose Jaw 306-691-2621
Nipawin 1-844-752-8845
North Battleford 306-446-6638
Prince Albert 306-765-6164
Regina 1-866-622-0222
Rosetown 1-800-631-7686
Saskatoon 1-866-543-6767
Swift Current 306-778-9530
Weyburn 306-842-8444
Yorkton 306-786-0412

For general information about medical concerns, talk to your doctor or call HealthLine at 811.

Didn't get the information or help you needed? Please contact the Ministry of Health at:

General Inquiries
1-800-667-7766 (Saskatchewan only)

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