Canadian patients face a median wait time of 21.2 weeks for medically necessary treatment -- the longest ever recorded in more than two decades of tracking, according to an annual report.
The Vancouver-based Fraser Institute surveyed specialist physicians to measure the time between a referral from a general practitioner and a patient’s treatment.
The median wait time was 21.2 weeks in 2017, which is 1.2 weeks longer than the previous year. When the group first began tracking wait times in 1993, it was just 9.3 weeks.
The problem appears to be focused on the Atlantic provinces. New Brunswick had the longest median wait times in Canada, at 41.7 weeks, followed by Nova Scotia (37.7 weeks) and P.E.I. (32.4 weeks).
Ontario recorded the shortest wait times, at 15.6 weeks, which is a slight improvement from last year. The only other province that saw wait times reduced was Newfoundland and Labrador, which dropped to 21.5 weeks from 26 weeks.
Waiting too long for important procedures can have serious consequences for patients, the report warns, including lost wages, pain and worsened medical outcomes.
“The simple answer of why these wait times have increased and why nothing’s really changed is because we haven’t seen any significant shift in policy to address the situation,” Bacchus Barua, associate director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute, told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
He said other countries with universal health-care systems have been able to manage wait times more effectively by partnering with private medical facilities, among other solutions.
Barua said wait times not only prolong illness and pain for patients, but also have an economic impact since some people are unable to work while waiting for medical care.
The survey also analyzed different types of procedures and found that orthopaedic surgery (41.7 weeks) and neurosurgery (32.9 weeks) had the longest times. Medical oncology had the shortest wait times, at 3.2 weeks.
For diagnostic procedures, the report found that this year Canadians waited about 4.1 weeks for a CT scan, 10.8 weeks for an MRI and 3.9 weeks for an ultrasound.
Median wait times by provinces, in weeks
New Brunswick: 41.7
Nova Scotia: 37.7
British Columbia: 26.6
Newfoundland and Labrador: 21.5