British Columbia

Surgical wait times drop in B.C, Ont.

Wait times for surgeries and other necessary medical treatments have decreased since last year in B.C. and Ontario but are up in other parts of the country, according to a report by the Fraser Institute released Tuesday.

Wait times for surgeries and other necessary medical treatments have decreased since last year in B.C. and Ontario but are up in other parts of the country, according to a report by the Fraser Institute released Tuesday.

The conservative think tank says the improvement in B.C., Ontario and a few other provinces is small, and more headway could be made under a private health care system.

The 18th edition of Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada concluded Ontario had the shortest average total waiting period (the wait between visiting a general practitioner and receiving treatment) in the country, at 13.3 weeks, a decrease from, 15 weeks in 2007.

B.C. had the second shortest at 17 weeks, down from 19 weeks a year ago, and just under the national average of 17.3 weeks.

Saskatchewan had the longest total wait time at 28.8 weeks, an increase from 27.2 in 2007.

Despite the improvements in some provinces, a national average wait of about 17 weeks is nothing to celebrate, says Nadeem Esmail, the Fraser Institute's senior health policy analyst.

"The waiting times are a symptom of a much greater problem, and that problem is a health care system that has proven itself over time to be simply incapable of delivering timely access to health care services," said Esmail on Tuesday.

Competition — not cash — the solution

Esmail said throwing more public money at the problem has been shown to make no difference to wait times.

The cure, he contends, would be to create a privately funded health care system to deliver services alongside the public system. 

According to Esmail, in seven other developed nations where this has already happened, there are no surgical wait times.

The report used data taken from ministry of health wait lists to measure median wait time over three intervals: the time between seeing a general practitioner and a specialist, the time between seeing the specialist and receiving treatment, and the total wait time.

The Fraser Institute report comes one day after the release of a study by the Canadian Health Coalition, which concluded that private medical clinics are mushrooming and taking resources out of the public system.