NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 31, 2007

When push comes to shove, many Canadians would seriously consider pulling strings to jump a health care queue, suggests a survey of Toronto residents published in the European Journal of Emergency Medicine.

The survey shows as queues grow, even those who support the principals of fairness will try to get preferential access:

  • About 29 percent said they would consider giving a gift or donation to get ahead and 36 percent agreed that patients should be allowed to pay extra to get quicker access.
  • Almost two-thirds said they were willing to pay more taxes for an improved health care system.

Of the several scenarios posed by the surveyors:

  • About 71 percent said they would likely or definitely speak to a neighbor who is a secretary at an MRI clinic if it meant getting moved up a list instead of waiting three months
  • Some 30 percent would give their surgeon tickets to basketball and hockey games if it meant getting hip replacement surgery faster.
  • Just over 50 percent were willing to pay a $20 "emergency fee" to see a dermatologist about an unattractive but apparently harmless rash instead of waiting three months.
  • Another 56 percent said they would likely or definitely let a doctor who owes them a favor move them up a waiting list for cataract surgery.

"The fact that people would jump the queue is all about desperation," said Ann Heester, clinical ethicist at an Ottawa hospital.  "People make decisions based on their own needs."

Source: Joanne Laucius, "Canadians willing to jump health-care queues: study," National Post, October 26, 2007.

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