CANADIANS WAIT LONGER FOR MEDICAL CARE

January 3, 2007

In recent years, patients treated by the Canadian health care system have increasingly experienced lengthy waits to see providers.  According a new study on medical care in Canada, released in October 2006 by the Fraser Institute, "waiting times are the legacy of a medical system offering low expectations cloaked in lofty rhetoric."

In its 16th annual installment, the report titled "Waiting Your Turn" tracks how waiting times vary across Canadian provinces depending on the type of treatment needed.  The report also documents waiting times for referral to specialists and the subsequent amount of time spent waiting for actual treatment from the specialist:

  • In 2006, the average amount of time spent waiting to receive treatment after referral by a general practitioner averaged 17.8 weeks across Canada.
  • At 14.9 weeks, Ontario had the shortest waits. Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick had average waits of 25.8 weeks, 28.5 weeks, and 31.9 weeks, respectively.
  • Patients referred to a neurosurgeon waited an average of 21 weeks just to see a specialist; getting treatment required an additional 10.7 weeks.
  • Patients waited an average of 16.2 weeks to see an orthopedic surgeon, and another 24.2 weeks for treatment to be performed after the initial visit.

The number of people routinely waiting for services is staggering, according to the report:

  • In 2003, the most recent year for which data were available from Statistics Canada, approximately 1.1 million people had trouble accessing care on a timely basis.
  • About 201,000 had problems obtaining non-emergency services; an additional 607,000 had problems getting in to see a specialist, and about 301,000 patients experienced problems obtaining diagnostic procedures.

In Canada, waiting lists are considered a way of rationing medical care and holding down health care spending.  Because health care in Canada is largely free at the point of service, demand is likely to exceed supply, says the Institute.

Source: Devon Herrick, "Canadians Wait Longer for Medical Care," Heartland Institute, January 2007; based upon: Nadeem Esmail, "Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada, 16th Edition," Fraser Institute, October 2006.

 

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