NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Canadians Denied Access To New Medical Technologies

August 19, 1999

Canadians are being denied access to vital high-technology medicine available in the United States and other industrialized countries, according to a new Fraser Institute study.

Researchers compared the availability of various high-tech medical equipment and procedures in Canada to the U.S. and to the average for industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of which both Canada and the U.S. are members.

  • For instance, Canada ranks 21st out of 28 countries in the availability of computed tomography (CT) scanners.
  • The average accessibility among OECD nations is 12.9 CT scanners per million persons, compared with 8.1 scanners per million for Canada and 26.9 in the United States.
  • Similarly, Canada ranks 19th out of 27 in the availability of magnetic resonance imagers (MRIs).
  • The United States has 16 MRIs per million and the OECD average is 4.2; far below either is Canada with 1.7 MRIs per million persons.

Researchers note that the technology deficit is not due to low health care spending as Canada is the fifth highest among OECD countries in terms of total spending on health as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. Also, these constraints do not reflect a lack of demand given the existence of waiting lists of weeks, and sometimes months, for many of the major diagnostic and treatment procedures such as MRIs and CT scans.

They say the problem is rather the deficiencies in Canada's health care system.

"This pervasive technology deficit points to the need for a serious re-evaluation of the way in which health care is funded and provided in Canada," argues William McArthur, a co-author of the study and a practicing physician.

Source: David Harriman, William McArthur and Martin Zelder, "The Availability of Medical Technology in Canada: An International Comparative Study," Public Policy Sources No. 28, August 8, 1999, Fraser Institute, 4th Floor, 1770 Burrard Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6J 3G7, (604) 688-0221.


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