Long waits for surgeries and medical treatments in 2014 cost Canadians $1.2 billion in lost income and productivity, finds a Fraser Institute study.

The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care notes that each of the 937,345 patients waiting for surgery last year bore an average personal cost of $1,289 (measured by the value of time lost during the work week).

Read: Wait times not improving

When hours outside the traditional work week are accounted for—evenings and weekends, excluding eight hours of sleep per night—the estimated cost of waiting jumps to $3.7 billion, or an average of $3,929 per patient.

“Clearly, waiting for healthcare can cause immense pain and discomfort, and puts people at risk of further disability and death,” says Bacchus Barua, Fraser Institute senior economist and study co- author. “What we often don’t fully grasp, however, is the fact that patients are losing valuable time as they wait for medically necessary treatment.”

Read: The cost of wait times

“Whether it’s actually lost income from not working, lower productivity, or reduced engagement with friends and family, waiting is costing Canadians dearly.”

The study draws upon data from the Fraser Institute’s Waiting Your Turn study, an annual survey of physicians across Canada in 12 major medical specialties that measures wait time for medical care.

In the 2014 survey, the nation’s medical professionals reported an average median wait time from specialist appointment to treatment of 9.8 weeks—up from a decade low of eight weeks in 2009.

Read: Dutch healthcare system outperforms Canada’s

“Without sensible policy reform, these waits will continue to be a detriment to not only the health of Canadian patients, but to their pocketbooks, their quality of life, and our overall economy,” Barua adds.

As wait times and incomes vary by province, so does the cost of public healthcare queues.

Average value of time lost during the work week for each patient waiting for medical care (by province) are:

  • Nova Scotia: $2,081
  • Alberta: $1,848
  • Manitoba: $1,797
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: $1,746
  • Prince Edward Island: $1,636
  • British Columbia: $1,514
  • New Brunswick: $1,167
  • Quebec: $995
  • Ontario: $959
  • Saskatchewan: $813

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

Join us on Twitter

See all comments Recent Comments


I am sure that a large number of those on surgeries wait list are not in the 18 to 64 age group. Actually other studies show that the vast majority of those waiting for surgery are not. Factoring that in the cost is more likely to be 40% of that number. And while 40 % of those waiting might be age appropriate about 7% are unemployed, and another x% are not seeking work. And of those awaiting surgery another portion continue to work until the scheduled date of Surgery.
Esmail fraser Institute study, has accounted for some of this in his estimate but what hasnt been accounted for is the major increase in the numbers and percentages of those surgeries which are for seniors now as compared to 1993.
Of greater importance is that the calculation works out to only 1.1Billion $C which is remarkably small. The cost of even minor improvements to that wait time Dwarf $1B.
And finally his 1.1B cost includes Pain and lifestyle changes. Small price to pay I think.
It appears from an economic point of view, this is far more manageable than any even minor change in the Canadian Surgery Delivery System likely to cost many multiples of that.

Tuesday, July 14 at 3:57 pm | Reply

Add a comment

Have your say on this topic! Comments that are thought to be disrespectful or offensive may be removed by our Benefits Canada admins. Thanks!

* These fields are required.
Field required
Field required
Field required