NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Leaving Canada for Medical Care, 2012

May 20, 2013

Among the consequences of poor access to health care in Canada is the reality that some Canadians will ultimately receive the care they require outside of the country. Some of these patients will have been sent out of the country by the public health care system due to a lack of available resources or the fact that some procedures or equipment are not provided in their home jurisdiction. Others will have chosen to leave Canada in response to concerns about quality; to avoid some of the adverse medical consequences of waiting for care such as worsening of their condition, poorer outcomes following treatment, disability or death; or simply to avoid delay, says Nadeem Esmail, director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute.

Understanding how many Canadians receive their health care in another country each year gives some insight into the state of health care in Canada, as well as the state of medical tourism among Canadian residents. Data on this topic are not readily available but an estimation is possible using annual wait times data from the Fraser Institute.

  • In 2012, a significant number of Canadians -- an estimated 42,173 -- received treatment outside of the country.
  • This is a decrease from the estimated 46,159 in 2011.
  • Increases between 2011 and 2012 in the estimated number of patients going outside Canada for treatment were seen in Saskatchewan (from 1,221 to 1,380), Quebec (4,600 to 6,308), New Brunswick (526 to 997), and Newfoundland & Labrador (433 to 649).
  • Conversely, British Columbia (from 9,180 to 8,132), Alberta (9,267 to 6,661), Ontario (18,172 to 15,725), Nova Scotia (1,271 to 858), and Prince Edward Island (54 to 28) saw a decrease in the estimated number of patients who received treatment outside Canada.
  • The estimate for Manitoba was roughly the same in both 2011 and 2012 (1,436 to 1,435).
  • At the same time, the national median wait time for treatment after consultation with a specialist decreased from 9.5 weeks in 2011 to 9.3 weeks in 2012.
  • Among the provinces, wait times from consultation with a specialist to treatment increased in seven provinces, falling only in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

Source: Nadeem Esmail, "Leaving Canada for Medical Care, 2012," Fraser Institute, May 2, 2013.


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