Health-care wait times in Alberta eclipse six months; nearly 11 weeks longer than Saskatchewan
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“It’s time for policymakers to consider reforming the outdated policies that continue to contribute to long wait times in Alberta and across Canada.”