NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 17, 2008

Prolonged waits for medical treatment caused C$15 billion (about U.S. $14.7 billion) of damage last year to the health of the Canadian economy, according to a new study for the Canadian Medical Association by the Centre for Spatial Economics.

The study measured the impact of the absence of both patients and their caregivers from the work force, as well as the increased costs of extra appointments, tests and medication required when patients languish in a queue.

When these factors were totaled:

  • It cost the economy C$14.8-billion (about U.S. $14.5 billion) in 2007 to have patients wait longer than medically recommended for four procedures: joint replacements, cataract surgery, coronary bypasses and MRI scans.
  • And that, in turn, cut federal and provincial revenues by C$4.4 billion (about U.S. $4.3 billion).

Other findings:

  • Waiting longer than recommended for joint replacement surgery cost the economy an average of C$26,400 (about U.S. $25,800) per patient, followed by MRIs at C$20,000 (about U.S. $19,5000), coronary artery bypass graft surgery at C$19,400 (about U.S. $19,000), and cataract surgery at C$2,900 (about U.S. $2,800).
  • The average Canadian patient who was not treated within the medically acceptable period in 2007 waited a year for a hip or knee replacement and seven months for cataract surgery.
  • Cardiac patients not treated within the recommended period had to wait an average of more than three months for coronary artery bypass surgery.

The study's authors took into account the fact that different conditions have different impacts.  For instance, most people can lead relatively ordinary lives waiting for cataract surgery, but joint problems can be severely disabling and heart patients are often counseled to stop most of their regular activities.

Source: Gloria Galloway, "Study puts cost of long waits in billions," Globe and Mail, January 16, 2008.


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