Health-care wait times in Al­berta eclipse six months; nearly 11 weeks longer than Saskatchewan

The Southwest Booster - - OPINION - FRASER IN­STI­TUTE

Al­berta’s me­dian wait time for med­i­cally nec­es­sary treat­ment was 26.1 weeks this year— nearly 11 weeks longer than pa­tients in neigh­bour­ing Saskatchewan, finds a new study re­leased to­day by the Fraser In­sti­tute, an in­de­pen­dent, non­par­ti­san Cana­dian pub­lic pol­icy think-tank.

Across Canada, the me­dian wait time in 2018 was 19.8 weeks.

“Pa­tients in Al­berta are spend­ing sig­nif­i­cantly more time on health-care wait lists than pa­tients in Saskatchewan, which should con­cern cit­i­zens and pol­i­cy­mak­ers alike,” said Bac­chus Barua, as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of health pol­icy stud­ies at the Fraser In­sti­tute and au­thor of Wait­ing Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2018.

The study ex­am­ines the to­tal wait time pa­tients face across 12 med­i­cal spe­cial­ties—from re­fer­ral by a general prac­ti­tioner (i.e. fam­ily doc­tor) to con­sul­ta­tion with a spe­cial­ist, to when the pa­tient ul­ti­mately re­ceives treat­ment.

This is the sec­ond year in a row Al­berta’s me­dian wait time has av­er­aged longer than 26 weeks. In 1993, when the Fraser In­sti­tute be­gan track­ing med­i­cal wait times, pa­tients waited just 10.5 weeks in Al­berta.

By com­par­i­son, Saskatchewan re­ported the long­est wait times in Canada in 2008 (28.8 weeks), but now has the short­est wait times in the coun­try at 15.4 weeks.

This year, wait times in Al­berta were long­est for or­thopaedic surgery (55.3 weeks) and short­est for med­i­cal on­col­ogy (4.8 weeks).

“Long waits for med­i­cal treat­ment aren’t a triv­ial mat­ter— they can in­crease suf­fer­ing for pa­tients, de­crease qual­ity of life, and in the worst cases, lead to dis­abil­ity or death,” Barua said.

“It’s time for pol­i­cy­mak­ers to con­sider re­form­ing the out­dated poli­cies that con­tinue to con­trib­ute to long wait times in Al­berta and across Canada.”

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