Long medical wait times cause Canadians "increased pain and suffering:" report

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Canadians are still waiting too long for specialist medical treatment and it’s causing “increased pain, suffering, and mental anguish,” according to a report from the Fraser Institute.

The report released Tuesday surveys specialist physicians across 12 specialities in 10 provinces and found medical wait times haven’t improved since last year.

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Wait times in Canada have been steadily increasing since 1993, according to the report, and patients now wait twice as long for specialist treatment as they did 22 years ago when wait times were 9.3 weeks. The average wait time for Canadians across all specialities in 2015 is 18.3 weeks, up slightly from 2014.

The best performing province was Saskatchewan, with an average wait time of 13.6 weeks while Prince Edward Island fared the poorest at 43.1 weeks, likely due to an absence of doctors in certain specialities.

B.C. has an average wait time of 22.4 weeks for specialty care.

Image: Fraser Institute

Image: Fraser Institute

In terms of specific specialties, patients in need of orthopaedic surgery wait the longest across Canada, at 35.7 weeks, while people in need of radiation oncology wait about a month.

Once patients have a consultation with a specialist, there is a further average wait of 9.8 weeks to receive treatment. In total, across all 10 provinces, there are nearly 900,000 people waiting for treatment, or 2.5 per cent of all Canadians.

“The results of this year’s survey indicate that despite provincial strategies to reduce wait times and high levels of health expenditure, it is clear that patients in Canada continue to wait too long to receive medically necessary treatment,” reads the report.

Waiting this long, concludes the report, can cause poorer medical outcomes for Canadians and has the potential to cause chronic, irreversible conditions or permanent disabilities. There’s also an economic cost as people lose wages while waiting for treatment.

To read the full report, click here.

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Lauren Sundstrom Lauren is a Staff Writer and Projects Assistant at Vancity Buzz. She is a graduate of BCIT's Broadcast and Online Journalism program. She loves reporting on breaking news and lifestyle content. If you feel like you have a story that needs to be told, fire her a tweet.
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