Wait Times for Health Care in Canada 2019


Credit: Fraser Institute

The median wait time for medically necessary treatment in Canada for the year 2019 was 20.9 weeks, up from 19.8 weeks wait time in 2018,finds a new study released by the Fraser Institute in Dec 2019, an independent, non -partisan Canadian public policy think -tank.


According to Fraser Institute, this is the second-longest wait ever recorded by them. In 1993, when the Fraser Institute first reported national wait times for medically necessary elective treatments, Canadian patients waited just 9.3 weeks . The highest wait time was 21.2 weeks in 2017. The study examines the total wait time patients face across 12 medical specialties — from referral by a general practitioner (i.e. family doctor) to consultation with a specialist, to when the patient ultimately receives treatment.

Ontario patients had the shortest median wait time this year at 16.0 weeks.

The longest median waits were in Prince Edward Island estimated at 49.3 weeks. Quebec has a wait time of 16.3 weeks and Newfoundland & Labrador, 23.4 weeks. New Brunswick has a total wait time of 39.7 weeks and Nova Scotia 33.3 weeks.

The report splits the wait times in two parts – referral by a general practitioner to consultation with a specialist and from the consultation with a specialist to point at which patient receives treatment. So in Ontario, you will have wait 8 weeks to see a specialist and after seeing a specialist doctor, you will have to wait another 8 weeks to get the treatment done, which is the shortest time frame amongst all the provinces. Specialist to point at which patient receives treatment time is 9.1 weeks for Quebec, 11.3 weeks for British Columbia. Those in Prince Edward Island have to wait the longest at 20.5 weeks, Manitoba 19.2 weeks, and New Brunswick 18.5 weeks.


Weeks waited from referral by GP to treatment. Credit: Fraser Institute

Surgeries: Nationally, wait times were longest for orthopedic surgery (39.1 weeks) and plastic surgery (28.7 weeks) and the shortest for medical oncology (4.4 weeks), radiation oncology (4.5 weeks), and elective cardiovascular surgery (11.2 weeks).


Diagnostic technologies wait times: The report states that Canadians could expect to wait 4.8 weeks for a computed tomography (CT) scan, 9.3 weeks for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and 3.4 weeks for an ultrasound.

An estimated 1.5% of patients received elective treatment in another country during 2018/19. About 12.1% of the patients are on a waiting list because they requested a delay or postponement. 43.9% of the patients would agree to have their procedure performed within a week if an opening arose.

Detailed report can be found here.

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