The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

October 29, 2009 06:30 ET

The Fraser Institute: Surgical Wait Times Decrease in Quebec but Still Higher Than National Average

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Oct. 29, 2009) - The median wait time for Quebeckers seeking surgical or other therapeutic treatment dropped to 16.6 weeks in 2009 from 18.7 weeks in 2008, according to new report from the Fraser Institute, one of Canada's leading economic think-tanks.

"While this is an improvement, many Quebeckers are still waiting 116 days or more for medically necessary treatment. A 16.6 week wait time is still unacceptable when a patients' health and physical and emotional wellbeing could be at risk," said Nadeem Esmail, Fraser Institute Director of Health System Performance Studies and author of the 19th annual edition of Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada.

"Sadly, politicians continue to throw money at our fundamentally broken system in the hopes of solving the wait time problem while cloaking its poor performance in lofty rhetoric. Meanwhile, Quebeckers suffer excessive waits for treatment. A major change in health policy is long overdue."

The hospital waiting list survey measures median waiting times to document the degree to which queues for visits to specialists and for diagnostic and surgical procedures are used to control health care expenditures. The report measures the wait times between referral by a general practitioner and consultation with a specialist, the times between seeing the specialist and receiving treatment, and the total wait times from GP referral to treatment. The full report, along with charts showing wait times for all provinces and medical procedures, is available at www.fraserinstitute.org.

Quebec's total median wait time, averaged across 12 specialities, remains higher than the national median wait time of 16.1 weeks, which is also down compared to 17.3 weeks in 2008.

Total waiting time

Ontario recorded the shortest total wait time among all provinces (the wait between referral by a general practitioner and receiving treatment), at 12.5 weeks, a decrease from 13.3 weeks in 2008. Manitoba had the second shortest total wait at 14.3 weeks, down from 17.2 weeks in 2008. Quebec at 16.6 weeks was third, a decrease from 18.7 weeks in 2008.

Conversely, some provinces experienced increases in total wait times. Newfoundland & Labrador had the longest total wait time at 27.3 weeks, an increase from 24.4 in 2008. PEI jumped to 26.7 weeks from 24.3 in 2008 while New Brunswick had the third longest wait time at 25.8 weeks, up from 23.1 in 2008. Alberta rose to 19.6 weeks from 18.5 in 2008.

The first wait: Between general practitioner and specialist consultation

The waiting time between referral by a general practitioner and consultation with a specialist in Quebec decreased to 8.3 weeks in 2009 from 9.4 weeks in 2008.

The provinces with the shortest wait times between seeing a general practitioner and consultation with a specialist are Manitoba (6.3 weeks, down from 7.7 weeks in 2008), Ontario (6.7 weeks, down from 7.0 in 2008), and BC (7.8 weeks, up from 7.1 in 2008).

The longest waits for consultation with a specialist were recorded in PEI (14.5 weeks, up from 11.2 in 2008), New Brunswick (14.3 weeks, up from 12.0 in 2008), and Newfoundland & Labrador (14.0 weeks, up from 13.3 in 2008).

The second wait: Between specialist consultation and treatment

The waiting time in Quebec between a specialist consultation and treatment-the second stage of waiting-decreased to 8.2 weeks in 2009 from 9.3 weeks in 2008.

According to the report, the waiting time between specialist consultation and treatment is the lowest in Ontario (5.8 weeks, down from 6.3 weeks in 2008). Manitoba is the second lowest (8.0 weeks, down from 9.5 weeks in 2008), and Quebec is third.

The longest waits are found in Saskatchewan (14.0 weeks, down from 16.1 weeks in 2008), Newfoundland & Labrador (13.2 weeks, up from 11.1 in 2008), and PEI at 12.2 weeks, down from 13.2 in 2008.

"Despite the reduction in wait times, Quebeckers still endure lengthy waits for treatment in our expensive health care system," Esmail said.

"In spite of large increases in health spending, Canadians are waiting 73 per cent longer for surgery than they did in 1993. Clearly, Canada needs to adopt the health care approaches of other developed countries, like Switzerland for example, where wait times for care are not taken for granted. It's about time Canadians stop overpaying for a defective system and start getting the timely access to health care they need, deserve, and are already paying for."

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The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization with locations across North America and partnerships in more than 70 countries. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org.

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