"VANCOUVER—Long waits for surgeries and medical treatments in 2014 cost Canadians $1.2 billion in lost income and productivity, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.
The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care notes that each of the 937,345 patients waiting for surgery last year bore an average personal cost of $1,289 (measured by the value of time lost during the work week).
When hours outside the traditional work week are accounted for—evenings and weekends, excluding eight hours of sleep per night —the estimated cost of waiting jumps to $3.7 billion, or an average of $3,929 per patient.
“Clearly, waiting for health care can cause immense pain and discomfort, and puts people at risk of further disability and death. What we often don’t fully grasp, however, is the fact that patients are losing valuable time as they wait for medically necessary treatment,” said Bacchus Barua, Fraser Institute senior economist and study co- author.
“Whether it’s actually lost income from not working, lower productivity, or reduced engagement with friends and family, waiting is costing Canadians dearly.”
The study draws upon data from the Fraser Institute’s Waiting Your Turn study, an annual survey of physicians across Canada in 12 major medical specialties that measures wait time for medical care.
In the 2014 survey, the nation’s medical professionals reported an average median wait time from specialist appointment to treatment of 9.8 weeks—up from a decade low of 8.0 weeks in 2009.
“Without sensible policy reform, these waits will continue to be a detriment to not only the health of Canadian patients, but to their pocketbooks, their quality of life, and our overall economy,” Barua said.
As wait times and incomes vary by province, so does the cost of public health care queues.
Residents of Nova Scotia faced the highest private cost of waiting per patient ($2,081), followed by Alberta ($1,848) and Manitoba ($1,797).
Average value of time lost during the work week for each patient waiting for medical care (by province):
- British Columbia: $1,514
- Alberta: $1,848
- Saskatchewan: $813
- Manitoba: $1,797
- Ontario: $959
- Quebec: $995
- New Brunswick: $1,167
- Nova Scotia: $2,081
- Newfoundland and Labrador: $1,746
- Prince Edward Island: $1,636