David Frum

06.20.12

How Long Do Canadians Wait for Healthcare?

According to a new study by Canada's Fraser Institute, surgical waitlists are costing the nation about $1 billion each year in lost productivity. The average Canadian can now expect to wait 9.5 weeks for treatment with a medical specialist, this number up from 9.3 weeks last year.

While most stories report on the personal pain of waiting for care, Fraser's new report "The Private Cost of Public Queues," breaks ground in assigning a specific monetary value to the Canadian economy's loss each year due to the rationing in its single-payer healthcare system.

Based on a 2011 Statistics Canada finding, the study makes the assumption that 11% of patients "were adversely affected by their wait for non-emergency surgery." Dividing the cost individually, health rationing for Canada's 941,321 patients seeking specialized surgery came out to $3,500 per patient in lost wage hours.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, healthcare spending annually totals about $200 billion, or $5,800 per person when spread across the country's 35 million residents.

Canada's Financial Post recently reported that the study also found that the loss in productivity amounts to $3 billion when adding in long emergency room visits and the cost of leaving work to see doctors.

With more and more attention being placed on Canada’s poor productivity relative to other industrialized nations, Mr. Esmail [the author of Fraser's study] says it’s high time Canada’s leaders begin examining more efficient means of providing health care through a socialized healthcare model that operates parallel to a private care model that is open to competition (similar to the model used in Japan and numerous European nations).