The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

December 04, 2012 06:32 ET

The Fraser Institute: Wait Times for Surgery Decline in Quebec, Now Second Shortest Nationwide

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Dec. 4, 2012) - Wait times for surgery in Quebec have decreased by more than three weeks since 2011, down to a median wait of 16.6 weeks for patients seeking elective treatment, according the Fraser Institute's annual report on health care wait lists.

Quebec's median wait of 16.6 weeks is the second shortest nationwide, behind Ontario at 14.9 weeks. Last year, Quebec physicians reported a median wait of 19.9 weeks for surgery, the longest wait time in the province since 2003.

The national median wait, averaged across all provinces, is 17.7 weeks, down from 19.0 weeks in 2011.

"While there has been some improvement since 2011, wait times in Quebec are still remarkably long for patients enduring mental anguish, pain and suffering, and lost productivity while they wait for treatment," said Nadeem Esmail, Fraser Institute senior fellow and co-author of the 22nd annual edition of Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada (

"Just as important, physicians say that wait times for surgery in Quebec, and across Canada, are far too long. In fact, specialists consider the delay for surgery in Quebec to be 58 per cent longer than what they would call clinically reasonable."

Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada 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 elective treatment, and the total wait times from GP referral to elective treatment. The full report, along with charts showing wait times for all provinces and medical procedures, is available (in English) at

Total waiting time

Quebec has the second-shortest total wait time (the wait between referral by a general practitioner and receiving treatment) among all provinces at 16.6 weeks, down from 19.9 weeks last year. Ontario has the shortest total wait among all provinces at 14.9 weeks, up from 14.3 weeks in 2011, while British Columbia ranks third at 17.0 weeks, down from 19.3 weeks in 2011. Conversely, the longest wait times can be found in New Brunswick (35.1 weeks), Prince Edward Island (29.3 weeks), and Nova Scotia (28.1 weeks).

The national median wait time, measuring wait times across all provinces, is 17.7 weeks, down from 19.0 weeks in 2011.

The first wait: Between general practitioner and specialist consultation

The wait time between referral by a general practitioner to appointment with a specialist in Quebec fell to 7.3 weeks in 2012, down from 10.7 weeks in 2011 and lower than this year's national average of 8.5 weeks (down from 9.5 weeks in 2011).

The provinces with the shortest wait times between seeing a general practitioner and consultation with a specialist are British Columbia (7.2 weeks), Quebec, and Manitoba (7.8 weeks). Conversely, the longest wait times can be found in New Brunswick (22.6 weeks), Prince Edward Island (16.9 weeks), and Newfoundland & Labrador (15.0 weeks).

The second wait: Between specialist consultation and treatment

The wait time in Quebec between a specialist consultation and treatment-the second stage of waiting-increased slightly to 9.3 weeks in 2012, up from 9.2 weeks last year. The national average was also 9.3 weeks, down from 9.5 weeks in 2011.

According to the report, Ontario has the shortest waiting time between specialist consultation and treatment at 7.0 weeks. Quebec is second and British Columbia is third (9.8 weeks). The longest waits exist in Nova Scotia (17.6 weeks), Manitoba (15.4 weeks), and New Brunswick (12.5 weeks).

"Wait times in Canada are now 91 per cent longer than they were in 1993. These wait times are among the longest in the developed world, despite Canada's chart-topping levels of health spending," Esmail said.

"The European experience shows us it is possible to have much more rapid access to universal health care through different health care policies. It's time Canadian governments stopped relying on our expensive and inefficient monopolistic approach to health care and considered alternative methods of finance and delivery."

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of 86 think-tanks. 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

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