Early rehabilitation may minimize disability and complications. However, children often wait a long time to gain admission to rehabilitation centres.
To describe waiting times for paediatric physical and occupational therapy and to determine factors associated with these waiting times.
The study was a prospective cohort design. Patients were followed from 1 January 1999 to 1 March 2000.
All children with physical disabilities, aged 0-18 years, referred in 1999 from the Montreal Children's Hospital to paediatric rehabilitation centres.
Data on date of referral, date of first appointment at the rehabilitation centre, age, gender, diagnosis, region and language were obtained from the rehabilitation transfer database. Primary family caregivers of children who were transferred to a rehabilitation facility participated in a telephone interview regarding their perceptions of the transfer process.
There were 172 children referred to rehabilitation facilities. The mean age of the children was 2.5 years. Average waiting time was 157.4 days (SD 57.1) for occupational therapy and 129.4 days (SD 51.6) for physical therapy. Decreased waiting time was associated with living in the city as opposed to the suburbs (hazard ratio=1.77; 95% confidence interval=0.92-3.41) and inversely associated with age (hazard ratio=0.46; 95% confidence interval=0.34-0.62). Among the 41 primary family caregivers who participated in the survey, higher empowerment scores were associated with shorter waits for rehabilitation.
Waiting time for rehabilitation services needs to be reduced. Empowered parents appear to manoeuvre within the system to reduce waiting times for their children.