Canadians who need medically necessary surgeries waited longer than ever for treatment – with average wait times hitting 20 weeks, a new Fraser Institute report concludes.
Before the 20-week record in 2016, wait times were longest in 2011 at 19 weeks, according to the organization. It began recording wait times for medically necessary elective treatments in 1993. At that point, wait times were only about 9.3 weeks to see a specialist, such as an ophthalmologist, gynecologist, and general surgeons.
“Excessively long wait times remain a defining characteristic of Canada’s health-care system, but this year is the longest we’ve ever seen and that should trouble all Canadians,” Bacchus Barua, senior economist at the institute, said.
“Long wait times aren’t simply minor inconveniences, they can result in increased suffering for patients, lost productivity at work, a decreased quality of life, and in the worst cases, disability or death,” Barua said.
National wait times were the longest for neurosurgery at 46.9 weeks and shortest for access to a medical oncologist and at only 3.7 weeks.
Right now, Canadians are waiting for nearly one million medically necessary procedures, the institute warned. Doctors polled for the report conceded that they thought their patients were waiting more than three weeks longer for treatment after seeing a specialist than what they consider to be “clinically reasonable.”
The report is based on survey responses from physicians across the country. It zeroed in on 12 medical specialties that patients are referred to by their family doctor and how long they had to wait to get an appointment with a specialist and then receive treatment.
Wait times by province in 2016
British Columbia: 25.2
New Brunswick: 38.8
Nova Scotia: 34.8
Newfoundland and Labrador: 26.0