The impact of seasonal operating room closures on wait times for oral cancer surgery
Operating room slowdowns occur at specific intervals in the year as a cost-saving measure. We aim to investigate the impact of these slowdowns on the care of oral cavity cancer patients at a Canadian tertiary care centre.
A total of 585 oral cavity cancer patients seen between 1999 and 2015 at the London Health Science Centre (lhsc) Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Clinic were included in this study. Operating room hours and patient load from 2006 to 2014 were calculated. Our primary endpoint was the wait time from consultation to definitive surgery. Exposure variables were defined according to wait time intervals occurring during time periods with reduced operating room hours.
Overall case volume rose significantly from 2006 to 2014 (p < 0.001), while operating room hours remained stable (p = 0.555). Patient wait times for surgery increased from 16.3 days prior to 2003 to 25.5 days in 2015 (p = 0.008). Significant variability in operating room hours was observed by month, with lowest reported for July and August (p = 0.002). The greater the exposure to these months, the more likely patients were to wait longer than 28 days for surgery (odds ratio per day [or]: 1.07, 95% confidence interval [ci]: 1.05 to 1.10, p < 0.001). Individuals seen in consultation preceding a month with below average operating room hours had a higher risk of disease recurrence and/or death (hazard ratio [hr]: 1.59, 95% ci: 1.10 to 2.30, p = 0.014).
Scheduled reductions in available operating room hours contribute to prolonged wait times and higher disease recurrence. Further work is needed to identify strategies maximizing efficient use of health care resources without negatively affecting patient outcomes.