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Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2012 Report

Type: Research Studies
Date Published: December 4, 2012
Research Topics:
Health, Hospital Waiting Lists

This edition of Waiting Your Turn indicates that waiting times for elective medical treatment have decreased since last year. Specialist physicians surveyed across 12 specialties and 10 Canadian provinces report a total waiting time of 17.7 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of elective treatment.

Wait times between 2011 and 2012 decreased in both the segment between referral by a general practitioner and consultation with a specialist (falling to 8.5 weeks from 9.5 weeks in 2011), and the segment between a consultation with a specialist and receipt of treatment (falling to 9.3 weeks from 9.5 weeks in 2011). While wait times have fallen over all, physicians themselves believe that Canadians wait approximately 3 weeks longer than what they consider is clinically “reasonable” for elective treatment after an appointment with a specialist.

There is also a great deal of variation in the total waiting time faced by patients across the provinces. While Ontario reports the shortest total wait in 2012 (14.9 weeks); New Brunswick reports the longest at 35.1 weeks. The same is true of variation among specialties. Patients wait longest between a GP referral and orthopaedic surgery (39.6 weeks), while those waiting for medical oncology begin treatment in 4.1 weeks.

It is estimated that in 2012, across all 10 provinces people are waiting for an estimated 870,462 procedures. This means that, assuming that each person waits for only one procedure, 2.5 percent of Canadians are waiting for treatment.

Importantly, physicians report that only about 10.3 per cent of their patients are on a waiting list because they requested a delay or postponement.

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

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