#18 - Waiting for Medical
Care in Canada
The 11th annual survey of Canadian
health care waiting lists conducted by the Vancouver-based Fraser
Institute found that the median waiting time for non-emergency
surgery and treatments in Canada increased from 13.1 weeks (3
months) in 1999 to 16.2 weeks (3.7 months) in 2000-01.1
The estimated number of Canadians
waiting for medical care also rose from 840,358 in 1999 to 878,008
in 2000-01, or over 2.85% of the total Canadian population of
30.8 million. To put these figures into perspective, if the U.S.
had the same health system as Canada almost7.9 million Americans
would be waiting for treatment.2
Of the 10 Canadian provinces,
Saskatchewan had the longest median waiting time at 28.9 weeks,
(6.7 months) and Ontario the shortest at 13.9 weeks (3.2 months).
Among the twelve medical specialties
surveyed, the longest waiting times were for ophthalmology (cataract
removal, cornea transplant, treatment of glaucoma, etc.) at 27.9
weeks (6.4 months), and orthopedic surgery at 26.4 weeks (6 months).
However, in some provinces typical waiting times for some procedures
can be more than a year. For example, the median wait for neurosurgery
in Manitoba is 66 weeks (15.2 months), while the wait for orthopedic
surgery is 67.4 weeks (15.6 months) in Saskatchewan and 70.8
weeks (16.4 months) in New Brunswick.
Nationwide, the shortest waits
in Canada were for cancer chemotherapy at 5.0 weeks and radiation
therapy at 8.9 weeks (2 months). However, patients needing chemotherapy
can expect to wait 10 weeks (2.3 months) in Saskatchewan and
12.6 weeks (2.9 months) in Newfoundland.
Given these waiting times,
it is not surprising that Canadian physicians reported in the
survey that 1.7% of all their patients instead obtained medical
care in another country - presumably most in the U.S. In fact,
5.6% of all Canadians needing radiation therapy for cancer obtained
treatment outside of Canada.
1 Walker, Michael and Wilson, Greg,
Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada, The Fraser
Institute, Vancouver, 2001. The survey was conducted between
December, 2000 and February, 2001. This study can be found at:
Waiting times are calculated as the median time spent waiting
2 2.85374% of the total U.S. population
of 276.54 million equals 7,891,739.