NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 21, 2008

The average hospital stay in Canada costs nearly $7,000 per patient, and even more for patients who have an underlying health condition, according to a new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The $7,000 is based on an average stay of seven days, and includes nursing costs, diagnostic testing and operating-room costs, but excludes such things as emergency care, day surgery and long-term care.  Patients suffering from chronic illness were also excluded from the study.

The researchers examined 2.4 million recorded hospital stays in every province except Quebec.  They found:

  • Underlying conditions or complications account for almost 30 percent of the average cost of treating a patient who requires an overnight stay in hospital.
  • In-patient care at hospitals accounts for 47 percent of hospital spending across the country.
  • Out-patient care, such as at health clinics and cancer treatment programs, is responsible for 18 percent of the cost, according to the research.

Other major findings:

  • Diseases of the circulatory system, such as heart attacks and strokes, cost the most to treat; the average cost for these patients is $11,260 per stay and accounted for 19 percent of total in-patient costs in 2004-2005.
  • Injuries from external causes -- such as falls, accidents, and poisoning -- represent the second-largest expense for acute-care hospitals; the average estimated cost for a patient with an injury is $9,400.
  • Diseases of the respiratory system, cancers, and diseases of the digestive system round out the top-five most expensive medical conditions in Canada; together, the conditions account for 58 per cent of the cost of in-patient hospital stays.

Source: Bal Brach, "Average Hospital Stay: $7,000," Windsor Star, March 20, 2008.

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