This edition of Waiting Your Turn indicates that waiting times for elective medical treatment have increased since last year. Specialist physicians surveyed across 12 specialties and 10 Canadian provinces report a total waiting time of 18.2 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of elective treatment.
Wait times between 2012 and 2013 increased in both the segment between referral by a general practitioner and consultation with a specialist (rising to 8.6 weeks from 8.5 weeks in 2012), and the segment between a consultation with a specialist and receipt of treatment (rising to 9.6 weeks from 9.3 weeks in 2012). Physicians also indicate that Canadians wait almost 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 2013 (13.7 weeks); Prince Edward Island reports the longest at 40.1 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 radiation oncology begin treatment in 3.5 weeks.
Data from this year’s survey indicate that in 2013, across all 10 provinces people are waiting for an estimated 928,120 procedures. This means that, assuming that each person waits for only one procedure, 2.7 percent of Canadians are waiting for treatment.
Importantly, physicians report that only about 11.1 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.