NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 5, 2009

After more than a decade of public health care with mandatory coverage, so many Canadian doctors have left the practice and so many young people have entered other fields that Canada ranks 26th of 28 developed nations in its ratio of physicians to population.  Once, Canada ranked among the leaders in the number of physicians -- but that was before government health care drove doctors out of the practice in droves, say columnists Dick Morris and Eileen McGann.

The fundamental fact is that we cannot cover 36 million new patients without more doctors and nurses, much less with the declining census of medical professionals the Canadian experience points to.  A recent survey of doctors by the Pew Institute found that 45 percent of all practicing doctors would consider retiring or closing their practices if the Barack Obama health care bill passes.  This scarcity of medical personnel heightens the likelihood of draconian rationing, lengthy waiting lists and lower quality medical care for all of us, particularly for the elderly, say Morris and McGann.

This physician shortage leads to massive and never-ending waiting lists:

  • In 1993, for example, there was an average wait of 9.3 weeks from the time a patient got a referral from a general practitioner to the time he could see a specialist in Canada.
  • By 1997, the wait was up to 11.7 weeks.
  • Now it's 17.3 weeks -- over four months just to see a specialist.

In Canada, unions control the entire health care process:

  • In Manitoba, for example, there is an eight-month wait for colonoscopies, yet the unions do not permit weekend or evening procedures, thereby extending the waiting lists.
  • Because of these long waits for colonoscopies, there is now a 25 percent higher incidence of colon cancer in Canada than in the United States.
  • And, because the leading drugs that we routinely use to treat the malady in the United States are banned in Canada because of their high cost, 41 percent of Canadians who get the cancer die from it, compared with only 32 percent in the United States.
  • Overall, the cancer death rate in Canada runs 16 percent higher than in the United States.

Source: Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, "The Health Care Disaster in Canada," Jewish World Review, November 4, 2009.

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