NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 28, 2008

In mid-February, Calgary Health Region (CHR) CEO Jack Davis requested C$25-$30 million (about U.S.$25.1-$30.1 million) in provincial funding for a plan to address long wait times in Calgary's emergency departments.  While Davis' request is surely well-intentioned, and while greater capacity in Calgary's health care system would be a good thing, the idea that additional spending is required to reduce wait times is simply wrong, says Nadeem Esmail of the Fraser Institute.

After accounting for the age profile of the population, Canada's health care system is the third most expensive universal access healthcare program in the developed world.  Compared to other nations' universal health insurance programs, Canada's delivers relatively poor access to physicians, technology and care in general. 

Though Alberta's program is the most expensive, access to care in the province is not markedly better than the Canadian average, says Esmail:

  • Only 39 percent of Canadian respondents waited less than one hour to be seen in the emergency room, compared to 47 percent of Australians, 50 percent of Britons, 55 percent of New Zealanders, and 66 percent of Germans.
  • More troubling was the fact that 24 percent of Canadians reported emergency room waits of four hours or more, compared to just 17 percent of Australians, 14 percent of Britons, 12 percent of New Zealanders and 4 percent of Germans.

The usual answer to these problems -- the one proposed by Davis -- is to pour more money into the system.  Such statements ignore reality.  Alberta's health care system is already flush with money, yet it delivers much less than what other more competitive systems with private sector providers offer to their ill and injured, says Esmail.

Source: Nadeem Esmail, "The Wrong Answer to Calgary's Hospital Capacity Problems," The Fraser Forum, April 2008.


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