Surgery Wait Times in Canada Hit Record High
Canadians waited longer than ever before (18.3 weeks) for non-emergency surgery in 2007, despite a multi-billion-dollar effort by government to speed up medical care, according to a report released yesterday by Canada's Fraser Institute. Highlights of the report include:
1. A typical Canadian seeking surgery had to wait 18.3 weeks in 2007 between referral from a general practitioner and treatment (averaged across all 12 specialties and 10 provinces surveyed), reaching an all-time record high, up from 17.8 weeks in 2006.
2. Ontario recorded the shortest waiting time overall at 15 weeks and Nova Scotia recorded the longest waits in Canada at almost 25 weeks.
3. The waiting time between referral by a GP and consultation with a specialist rose to 9.2 weeks from the 8.8 weeks recorded in 2006. The shortest waits for specialist consultations were in Ontario (7.6 weeks) and the longest waits for consultation with a specialist were recorded in Prince Edward Island (12.7 weeks).
4. The waiting time between specialist consultation and treatment—the second stage of waiting—increased to 9.1 weeks from 9 weeks in 2006. The shortest specialist-to-treatment waits were found in Ontario (7.3 weeks), while the longest waits were in Manitoba (12.0 weeks).
5. Between 2006 and 2007, large increases occurred in the waits for internal medicine (additional 4.9 weeks), gynaecology (additional 2.1 weeks), urology (additional 1.9 weeks), and otolaryngology (additional 1.8 weeks).
6. The median wait for a CT scan across Canada was 4.8 weeks. British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia had the shortest wait for CT scans (4 weeks), while the longest wait occurred in Manitoba (8 weeks).
7. The median wait for an MRI across Canada was 10.1 weeks (in other words, early 2008 if you call tomorrow). Patients in Ontario experienced the shortest wait for an MRI (7.8 weeks), while Newfoundland residents waited longest (20 weeks - in other words March 5, 2008 if you schedule tomorrow).
8. The median wait for ultrasound was 3.9 weeks across Canada. Alberta and Ontario displayed the shortest wait for ultrasound (2 weeks), while Prince Edward Island and Manitoba exhibited the longest ultrasound waiting time (10 weeks).
The Fraser Institute concludes that “The promise of the Canadian health care system is not being realized. The only way to solve the system’s most curable disease – lengthy wait times that are consistently and significantly longer than physicians feel is clinically reasonable – is for substantial reform of the Canadian health care system.”
MP: The disparity in wait times for surgery and other procedures like MRIs among Canadian provinces seems somewhat puzzling - isn't socialized medicine supposed to provide "free" and uniform medical care to all Canadians, regardless of which province they live in? Perhaps the significant geographical disparity in Canadian health care is because market prices and profits are suppressed under socialized medicine, resulting in an inefficient and uneven allocation of scarce medical resources?