Long waits for health care cost Canadians $1.2 billion: Report

Personal cost of $1,289 measured by value of time lost during work week

Long waits for surgeries and medical treatments in 2014 cost Canadians $1.2 billion in lost income and productivity, according to a study by the Fraser Institute, a public policy think-tank.

The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care said 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).

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

"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 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.

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

Residents of Nova Scotia faced the highest private cost of waiting per patient ($2,081), followed by Alberta ($1,848) and Manitoba ($1,797).

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

• British Columbia: $1,514

 Alberta: $1,848

 Saskatchewan: $813

 Manitoba: $1,797

 Ontario: $959

 Quebec: $995

 New Brunswick: $1,167

 Nova Scotia: $2,081

 Newfoundland and Labrador: $1,746

 Prince Edward Island: $1,636

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