Long waits for health care plague Canada

Canadians seeking health care continue to be plagued by long waits, according to a report from the Fraser Institute. The most recent edition of “Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists In Canada,” found the median wait from the time a patient was referred by a general practitioner until the time he or she actually received treatment was 17.7 weeks.

Researchers examined waits by province and specialty, and found:

  • Ontario had the shortest median wait at 16.3 weeks.
  • Saskatchewan had the longest at 25.5 weeks.
  • Cancer patients had the shortest median wait – 5.5 weeks for medical oncology and 5.7 weeks for radiation oncology.
  • Orthopaedic patients had the longest waits, at 40 weeks.

    “The primary consequence of delayed access (to health care) is the worsening conditions of their patients," the authors found. They also reported 12 per cent of physicians and 4 per cent of nurses believe they have had patients die specifically because of long waits for needed care.

    While the Canadian federal government pledged in 2004 to increase spending on health care by $41 billion (Canadian) over the next 10 years to address wait lists, additional spending in the past has not led to reductions in wait times. The Fraser report concludes that as long as Canada keeps a single-payer health care system, Canadian patients will continue to be forced into long waits for needed care.

    Source: Sean Parnell, Long Waits for Health Care Plague Canada, Heartland Institute, January 1, 2006; based upon: Nadeem Esmail and Michael Walker, Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists In Canada (15th Edition), Fraser Institute, October 2005.

    For text: http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=18276

    For study: http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/shared/readmore.asp?sNav=pb&id=801

    For more on Health: http://www.ncpa.org/iss/hea/

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 21 March 2006
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