The man in charge of reducing wait times in Ontario had a stern message for health officials in the Ottawa region Thursday, pointing out the Champlain Local Health Integration Network has the worst wait times in the province.

"We will propose a way to fix it. It has to be fixed," said Jack Kitts, the CEO of the Ottawa Hospital, the largest hospital in the region's health network.

The Ontario Ministry of Health says hospitals in the Champlain LHIN are below the provincial wait time target for all service areas.

Wait times for breast cancer surgery, for example, average 41 days in Ontario; meanwhile, patients attending the Ottawa Hospital have to wait 65 days for surgery.

Likewise, the provincial wait time for a hip replacement is 216 days, but sits at 393 days in Ottawa. Those waiting for an MRI in the Capital are forced to wait more than triple the provincial average.

"It shocked us into realizing we're the LHIN with the worst results, the longest wait times in the province," said Marie Fortier, chairperson of the Champlain Health Network's board.

"It's not that we haven't improved, but everybody else has improved better and quicker than we have."

The pain of having to wait

Ottawa resident Ben Tahir says he knows the pain of having to wait for a medical procedure after waiting nine months for an MRI to assess a leg injury that has left him walking with a cane.

"I was in terrible, excruciating pain and there was nothing I could do but lay in bed for months," Tahir told CTV Ottawa on Thursday.

Kitts says the first step to addressing the problem is figuring out why wait times in the region are so much longer than hospitals in other areas of the province.

"If the demand in this LHIN is higher than elsewhere in the province -- and you could argue that perhaps we're a retirement community where cataracts and hips and knees may be more prevalent -- we need to show that," he said.

Wait times not only factor in overall patient care

Kitts says it's important for residents to remember wait times are just one factor in overall patient care. He says patient safety and the level of care are also important considerations.

"I don't know why our wait list is longer than others, but one thing I do know, it's not because of the lack of dedication, hard work and professionalism of our staff," he said.

While Kitts says he's concerned about the issue, he says he's not prepared to turn the region's health care system upside down to adjust wait times. Instead, he says he'd rather find out what's causing long wait times and then fix the problem accordingly.

Cut down on unnecessary scans

Meanwhile, another study published in the June issue of the Canadian Association of Radiologists Journal suggests wait times for MRI and CT scans in Ontario could be reduced by cutting back on unnecessary scans ordered by doctors.

The work -- an analysis of why scans were ordered and what treatment course was followed -- suggests more rational use of the available machines should be considered.

"One way of reducing wait times is to not order scans in patients who are unlikely to benefit from them,'' lead author Dr. John You said in a release issued by Toronto's Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences, where he and his colleagues did the work.

"If we can reduce inappropriate use, then we can improve access to CT and MRI scans for those who will benefit.''

Among the study's findings was the fact that MRI use is higher for patients who live in high-income neighbourhoods, even though it's well known that people on low incomes tend to have more health problems than the wealthy.

In Ontario the number of CT scanners has increased four-fold and the number of MRI scanners increased 12-fold between 1993 and 2006. Currently, the estimated wait for a CT scan is 5.5 weeks and 14 weeks for an MRI scan.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Joanne Schnurr and files from The Canadian Press