Wait times to receive medical treatment in Canada are the highest they've been in 18 years, according to a new report.

The median wait time is 19 weeks between the referral from a general practitioner and the start of elective treatment, finds the report, released by the Fraser Institute Monday.

"At 104 per cent longer than it was in 1993, this is the longest total wait time recorded since the Fraser Institute began measuring wait times in Canada," reads the report.

Wait times for a referral to a specialist rose to 9.5 weeks in 2011 from 8.9 weeks in 2010. And the wait time between a visit to a specialist and actual medical treatment increased to 9.5 weeks from 9.3 weeks, according to the report.

Even among the provinces with the shortest wait times there have been declines. Though Ontario has the shortest total wait time for surgery among the provinces, with an average wait of 14.3 weeks between a visit to a GP and the receipt of treatment, that’s up from 14 weeks in 2010.

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The median wait time for Canadians seeking surgical or other therapeutic treatment was 19 weeks in 2011. (iStock)

Conversely, Prince Edward Island had the longest total wait time at 43.9 weeks.

Wait times for different types of medical procedures also vary in length. Patients wait the longest between a GP referral and plastic surgery, an average of 41.6 weeks, while those waiting for medical oncology begin treatment in 4.2 weeks.

"Canadians are being forced to wait almost 4 ½ months, on average, to receive surgical care, prolonging the pain and suffering patients and their families are forced to endure," said Mark Rovere, a co-author of the report. "Despite significant increases in government health spending, Canadians are still waiting too long to access medically necessary treatment," Rovere said.

The report, Waiting your Turn, surveyed specialist physicians in 10 provinces across 12 specialties between January 12 and May 20, 2011. Survey questionnaires were sent to 12 different specialties:

  • Plastic surgery.
  • Gynecology.
  • Ophthalmology.
  • Otolaryngology.
  • General surgery
  • Neurosurgery.
  • Orthopedic surgery.
  • Cardiovascular surgery.
  • Urology.
  • Internal medicine.
  • Radiation oncology.
  • Medical oncology.
With files from The Canadian Press