Roughly 1.2 million patients waited for medically necessary treatment, averaging $2,254 each in lost wages and productivity
Canadians lost nearly $2.8 billion in lost wages and productivity last year, according to a report from the Fraser Institute.
Roughly 1.2 million patients waited for medically necessary treatment last year, and each of them lost an estimated $2,254 on average due to lost wages and reduced productivity during working hours, according to the report.
The reason? Long medical wait times. In 2020, the national median for waiting to see a specialist after receiving a referral from a general practitioner was 10.5 weeks. For a specialist appointment to treatment it was 12.1 weeks.
Taken together, the total median wait time in Canada for medical treatment was 22.6 weeks in 2020 – the longest in the survey’s 30-year history.
“Health-care workers across Canada should be commended for the superb job they’re doing to get us through this global pandemic,” says Bacchus Barua, associate director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute. “However, while we are constantly reminded of the consequences of COVID-19, less discussed are the consequences of unreasonable waits for surgery which can range from physical pain and psychological distress for some, to permanent disability and death for others.”
Potentially, more than 100,000 Canadians living with undiagnosed chronic diseases did not begin treatment in 2020, according to a separate report.
Pandemic not solely to blame
The 2020 wait times cost was up from the figure in 2019, when the Canadian economy lost almost $2.1 billion in lost productivity and wages due to the same reason.
That year, the median wait time after an appointment with a specialist was 10.8 weeks, but the total wait time between referral from a general practitioner to treatment was 20.9 weeks. In 2018, the total wait time was 19.8 weeks.
“While some of this backlog is the direct result of COVID-19-related closures, results from the same survey suggest that almost as many (1.1 million) patients were waiting for treatment in 2019 – before the pandemic started,” says Mackenzie Moir, Fraser Institute policy analyst.
The cost of wait times in 2020 also differs across provinces in Canada, according to the Fraser Institute.
Recording the biggest losses in wages and productivity are workers in Prince Edward Island ($4,130) and Nova Scotia ($4,122), followed by Newfoundland and Labrador ($3,287), Alberta ($2,830) and Saskatchewan ($2,505).
Workers in Manitoba ($2,371), British Columbia ($2,330), New Brunswick ($2,311), Quebec ($1,632) and Ontario ($1,547) also suffered considerable losses.
However, the pandemic certainly had an impact on the problem. Two-thirds of Canadians living with a chronic illness or major illness have faced challenges accessing treatment and care because of the pandemic, according to a previous report.