Skip to main content

From general practitioner to treatment: Canadians' waited longer for health care in 2023


A new report by the Fraser Institute shows most Canadians waited longer to see a specialist and receive treatment in 2023.

According to the conservative-leaning think tank, the wait time for a referral from a general practitioner to getting treatment by a specialist increased to 27.7 weeks in 2023 from 27.4 weeks in 2022.

Each year, the Fraser Institute polls physicians from 12 specialties including radiation oncology, general surgery and internal medicine.

Seven of the 10 provinces in which physicians were surveyed saw increased wait times to see a specialist, according to the report published in early December. Three provinces saw shorter wait times than in 2022.

The data was collected from January to June and the institute received 1,269 responses.

"This year’s response rate (10.3 per cent) is lower than it has been in previous years, and thus should be interpreted with caution," the report notes.

This comes as health-care organizations, nurses' unions and physicians from across the country sound the alarms as wait times increase in other areas such as emergency departments.

Other reports about long procedure wait times also forced one Canadian mother to leave the country in search of surgery to treat her Stage 4 cancer.


Wait times for surgeries and procedures will vary across Canada because each province and territory is responsible for administering care to its residents.

The Frazer Institute's report focuses on the length of time it takes to be referred to a specialist by a general practitioner and then from the specialist to treatment.

The Maritime provinces recorded the longest wait times from seeing a general practitioner to getting treatment, bringing an average patient's total wait time to over 50 weeks. Nova Scotians have the longest wait times in the country, with people waiting a median of 56.7 weeks for treatment, according to the report.

Median wait times per province for specialty care in Canada. (Fraser Institute)

Prince Edward Island followed behind with a median of 55.2 weeks wait and New Brunswick with 52.6 weeks wait before receiving treatment.

The report says the total waiting time has gone up due to an increase in time for a referral between a general practitioner to a specialist.

"The wait time in this segment has risen from 12.6 weeks in 2022 to 14.8 weeks in 2023," the report reads.

This comes as roughly 6.5 million Canadians are unable to access to primary care and the country expects to be short 30,000 family doctors by 2028.

Alberta's wait time is a median of 33.5 weeks from general practitioner to treatment, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador at 33.3 weeks.

Physicians at one Edmonton hospital have raised concerns that patients across the board are "suffering" from long waits in hospitals.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba saw average wait times for specialists of 31 and 29.1 weeks respectively, while British Columbia and Quebec saw a median wait of 27.7 and 27.6 each, the report notes.

Ontario, according to the Fraser Institute's report, had an average 21.6-week wait—the shortest of all the provinces.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning think tank, wait times for health care in Ontario will increase if the province's plan to allow more for-profit clinics to conduct procedures pans out.


The wait time to see a radiation oncology specialist is the shortest in the country at 4.4 weeks, followed by a medical oncology specialist at 4.8 weeks.

Cardiovascular surgery had a median wait of 13.1 weeks until treatment, followed by general surgeries with a median of 21.7 weeks.

The longest wait time from general practitioner to treatment in Canada is for plastic surgery with a median wait of 52.4 weeks.

Total wait times from generational practitioner to treatment in 2023 for each specialty. (Fraser Institute)

Orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery also had high wait times with Canadians waiting a median of 44.3 weeks and 43.5 weeks respectively.

Wait times for specialists working in gynecology was 37.4 weeks in 2023, the report says. Top Stories

Stay Connected