Fraser Institute News Release: Canada’s health-care wait times hit 27.7 weeks in 2023–longest ever recorded

Article content

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Dec. 07, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Canadian patients waited longer than ever this year for medical treatment, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

The study, an annual survey of physicians across Canada, reports a median wait time of 27.7 weeks—the longest ever recorded, longer than the wait of 27.4 weeks reported in 2022—and 198 per cent higher than the 9.3 weeks Canadians waited in 1993, when the Fraser Institute began tracking wait times.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

“COVID-19 and related hospital closures have exacerbated, but are not the cause, of Canada’s historic wait times challenges,” said Bacchus Barua, director of the Fraser Institute’s Centre for Health Policy Studies and co-author of Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2023.

“Previous results revealed that patients waited an estimated 20.9 weeks for medically necessary elective care in 2019—long before the pandemic started.”

The study examines the total wait time faced by patients 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.

More than 1,200 responses were received across the 12 specialities and 10 provinces.

Among the provinces, Ontario recorded the shortest wait time at 21.6 weeks—still up from 20.3 weeks in 2022. Nova Scotia recorded the longest wait time in Canada at 56.7 weeks.

Among the various specialties, national wait times were longest between a referral by a GP and plastic (52.4 weeks), orthopaedic (44.3) neurosurgery (43.5). Wait times were shortest for radiation (4.4 weeks) and medical oncology treatments (4.8 weeks).

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Patients also experience significant waiting times for various diagnostic technologies. This year, Canadians could expect to wait 6.6 weeks for a computed tomography (CT) scan, 12.9 weeks for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and 5.3 weeks for an ultrasound.

Crucially, physicians report that their patients are waiting over four and a half weeks longer for treatment (after seeing a specialist) than what they consider to be clinically reasonable.

“Excessively long wait times remain a defining characteristic of Canada’s health-care system” said Mackenzie Moir, Fraser Institute policy analyst and co-author of the report.

“And they aren’t simply minor inconveniences, they can result in increased suffering for patients, lost productivity at work, a decreased quality of life, and in the worst cases, disability or death.”

Median wait times by province (in weeks)

PROVINCE 2022 2023 PROVINCE 2022 2023
British Columbia 25.8 27.7 Quebec 29.4 27.6
Alberta 33.3 33.5 New Brunswick 43.3 52.6
Saskatchewan 30.1 31.0 Nova Scotia 58.2 56.7
Manitoba 41.3 29.1 P.E.I. 64.7 55.2
Ontario 20.3 21.6 Newfoundland and Labrador 32.1 33.3

Advertisement 4

Article content

Bacchus Barua, Director, Centre for Health Policy Studies
Fraser Institute

Mackenzie Moir, Policy Analyst
Fraser Institute

For interviews or for more information, please contact:

Drue MacPherson, Media Relations Coordinator Fraser Institute
Tel: (604) 688-0221 Ext. 721
E-mail: [email protected]

Follow the Fraser Institute on Twitter and Facebook

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit 

Article content


Back To Top