Media Releases

According to an investigation by the Montreal Economic Institute: Operating rooms are used at less than 50% of capacity

Montreal, December 14, 2007 – An investigation conducted by the Montreal Economic Institute involving 23 hospitals shows that open operating rooms were in use only 46% of the time during day shifts on weekdays in 2005-2006. Use of operating rooms was even lower on evening shifts, at just 9%, and on weekends, at between 6% and 8%. Part of Quebec’s most modern and most substantial infrastructure is thus being used at far below capacity.

In an Economic Note published by the Montreal Economic Institute, the authors state that “despite significant growth in government financing for the health and social services network, the problem of waiting lists continues, especially for surgery, and some patients do not receive treatment within a reasonable time frame. The supply of health services must be increased by making better use of existing resources.”

This under-use represents a major cost in the form of idle facilities. The typical cost of equipping an operating room ranges from $450,000 for a general surgery room to $1,150,000 for a partially automated endoscopic surgery room.

Factors that may explain this underuse

  • – Most hospitals keep an operating room free at all times to deal with emergency surgeries.
  • – The department of health and social services imposes a financial and regulatory framework on hospitals and regional agencies that may lead them to close operating rooms or to use them less intensively.
  • – Staff shortages in operating blocks and related services mean fewer operations can be performed.
  • – A lack of flexibility in staff management may reduce the availability of human resources.

Methodology of the investigation

The Montreal Economic Institute sent forms to 36 hospitals in Quebec to gather the most recent data, covering the 2005-2006 period. Of the 32 hospitals that replied, 23 did so before the deadline and provided full data. This produced a final sample covering 264 operating rooms, representing 49% of operating rooms in all public hospitals.

The Economic Note, titled An overview of operating room use in Quebec hospitals, was prepared by health economist Julie Frappier and by Mathieu Laberge, an economist at the Institute. The investigation among the various hospitals was conducted by Ms. Frappier, the project leader.

– 30 –

Information and interview requests: André Valiquette, Director of Communications, Montreal Economic Institute, Tel.: 514 273-0969 ext. 2225 / Cell: 514 574-0969 / E-mail: avaliquette@iedm.org

Back to top