NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

More Canadians On Hospital Waiting Lists In 1998

September 28, 1999

The Fraser Institute's annual survey, "Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada," has found that more Canadians were waiting to receive medical treatment in 1998 than in 1997. Queues for visits to specialists and for diagnostic and surgical procedures reflect health care rationing under Canada's national health system.

According to the study, 212,990 Canadians were on hospital waiting lists for surgical procedures, a 13 percent increase from the 1997 estimate of 187,799. Patients were also waiting longer to receive treatment:

  • Patients waited an average (median) of 6.0 weeks after referral by a General Practitioner for a consultation with a specialist.
  • Then they waited another 7.3 weeks after the consultation to actually receive treatment.
  • The total average waiting time in 1998 was 13.3 weeks -- up from 11.9 weeks in 1997, and up a dramatic 43 percent since 1993, when the total waiting time for Canadians to receive treatment was 9.3 weeks.

The total wait in 1998 varied widely according to where Canadians live: from 11.9 weeks in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, to 20.2 weeks in Saskatchewan.

The survey also measured what specialists consider to be clinically reasonable lengths of time to wait for surgical procedures. For Canada as a whole, and across all specialties, actual waiting time exceeded what specialists consider to be reasonable for all specialties except medical oncology. Waiting times also increased for various diagnostic technologies such computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound.

Source: Michael Walker and Martin Zelder, "Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada (9th edition)," Critical Issues Bulletin, 1999, Fraser Institute, 4th Floor, 1770 Burrard Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6J 3G7, Canada, (604) 688-0221.


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