NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hospital Waiting Times in Canada Longer

October 1, 2001

Despite a massive infusion of federal spending on health care, waiting lists in Canada have grown significantly. Total waiting time for patients between referral from a general practitioner and treatment, averaged across all 12 specialties and 10 provinces surveyed, rose from 13.1 weeks in 1999 to 16.2 weeks in 2000-01 (a 23.7 percent increase), according to a Fraser Institute study.

Canada-wide, total waiting time increased significantly in 2000-01 and its level is high, both historically and internationally. Compared to 1993, waiting time in 2000-01 is 69 percent higher. Moreover, academic studies of waiting time have found that Canadians wait longer than Americans and Germans for cardiac care, although not as long as New Zealanders or the British.

Among the significant findings of the study:

  • The rise in waiting time between 1999 and 2000-01 is principally a result of an increase in the waiting time between GP referral and specialist consultation -- increasing from 4.9 weeks in 1999 to 7.2 weeks in 2000-01, an increase of 46.9 percent.
  • Waiting time between specialist consultation and treatment increased for Canada as a whole between 1999 and 2000-01, rising from 8.2 to 9.0 weeks, an increase of 9.8 percent.
  • Throughout Canada, the total number of people estimated to be waiting for treatment was 878,088 in 2000-01, an increase of 3 percent between 1999 and 2000-01.

The highest percentage of patients seeking treatment outside of Canada were those in need of radiation oncology (5.6 percent). For all specialties, 1.7 percent of patients left the country to receive treatment.

Source: Michael Walker and Greg Wilson, "Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada," Critical Issues Bulletin, September 2001, Fraser Institute, 4th Floor 1770 Burrard Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6J 3G7, Canada, (604) 688-0221.


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