wait times

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Waiting has become a defining characteristic of the Canadian health care experience. Patients stricken with illness, from mild to serious, must wait their turn for access to emergency care, family doctors, medical specialists, diagnostic scans, and treatment.

These delays, which can be quite substantial, impose needless costs on Canadians in terms of their economic, social, and mental well-being and can lead to less-desirable health care outcomes. Fortunately, this serious health care problem can be readily solved through policy reforms based on European successes.


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In most places, if you spend more, you receive more in goods or services. The glaring exception is Canada's government-run health care system.


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The season finale of the popular U.S. drama Breaking Bad brought with it renewed interest in a viral internet meme that implicitly suggested that the entire story might not have taken place had the main character, Walter White, lived in Canada. The meme suggests that within minutes of being diagnosed with cancer, Walt's "free" treatments would begin the very next week.


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With the deadline for filing income tax returns now passed, some Canadians may still be in shock at the size of their tax bills while others no doubt find solace in the belief that their taxes help pay for a high quality universal access health care system.


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With the turning of the calendar to May, the effort to complete our income tax returns will slowly start to fade from memory.


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A Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) study recently reported that wait times for access to health care across a few priority treatment areas are improving. According to CIHI, “at least 8 out of 10 Canadian patients are receiving priority area procedures… within medically recommended wait times.” This score might be acceptable to those who manage the health care system, but patients and taxpayers would be justified in questioning whether it represents success for them.

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A group of Canadian physician associations (the Wait Time Alliance) has just released a report on providing Canadian patients more timely access to care. Surprisingly, the report shows little regard for the pain and suffering patients experience while waiting for medical treatment. Even more troubling than the report itself is that this lack of regard for patients’ needs is becoming remarkably popular in Canada.