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How Long is Too Long? Canadian Healthcare Wait Times

By: Benefits by Design | Tuesday July 7, 2020

Updated : Wednesday August 19, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic, provincial health ministers prioritized hospital space for coronavirus patients and canceled thousands of elective surgeries. These cancellations will result in an increase to already lengthy wait times for Canadians looking to see specialists.   

It is easy to think of Canada’s healthcare system as a single organism. Still, the truth is that Canada’s healthcare system is broken up into pieces — one health plan per province and territory. 

With no federal healthcare system in place (that’s what national pharmacare might provide), Canadians in each province or territory have varying health plans, coverages, and access to practitioners. This means that wait times associated with getting certain tests, referrals to specialists, or even surgery, vary widely by province.

Waiting for Treatment in Canada can be Harmful

Waiting for treatment in Canada, depending on the circumstances, can have serious consequences. These consequences may include poorer medical outcomes, increased or prolonged pain, and negative impacts on mental health. In dire circumstances, prolonged waits can even transform potentially curable illnesses and injuries into irreversible chronic conditions or permanent disabilities. 

For example, consider someone waiting for surgery to help alleviate major pain and discomfort and the added stress that could bring.

Or worse still, a potentially curable disease or illness that, due to waiting too long, spreads and becomes chronic or untreatable.

In addition, consider the financial impacts on Canadians unable to work while they wait for treatment. Employers should also consider the impact on benefits plans as they take Long Term Disability (LTD) Insurance leave.

Healthcare Wait Times During and After COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected many things, but healthcare, understandably, has been one of the most impacted.

Thousands of elective surgeries were postponed and as a result, wait times in Canada over the next few years are likely to increase even further as hospitals and doctors deal with their backlogs.

Some hospitals are already making special preparations to resume elective surgeries after COVID-19, but the question isn’t whether or not COVID-19 will affect healthcare wait times — it’s how much.

So How Long is Too Long? An Infographic

Every year, the Fraser Institute looks at the average wait time for Canadians to see a specialist. Based on their research and findings, we created the infographic below to bring health care wait times to the forefront of Canadians’ minds.

The Infographic itself based on the Fraser Institute’s 2019 Report Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada.

Take a look:

Wait times for Health Care in Canada

Like the infographic? Download a copy.

Download the Health Care Wait Times 2019 Infographic