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hospital wait times
Shorter waits for hip-fracture repair, and eight out of 10 Canadians receiving "priority procedures" within government-defined benchmarks. Sounds pretty good, right? However, these highlights from the Canadian Institute of Healthcare Information's annual update of Wait Times for Priority Procedures in Canada are little more than feel-good distractions from the real story.
When governments don't want to do something but want to give the appearance of doing something, they set up a task force or committee to investigate and bring back a report. It looks good to some but does nothing and that is what so many jurisdictions do. Maybe it is because I live in Ontario, but this province is the master when it comes to this.
Canadian Institute for Health Information's updated report on wait times for healthcare in Canada is not comprehensive, and ignores almost 90 per cent of surgical procedures performed in Canada. In reality, the actual delays patients experience in Canada are considerably longer than what the CIHI and governments routinely report.
Since 1993, the average wait for treatment has almost doubled, per capita public healthcare expenditures have increased by about 40 per cent, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that patients are suffering the consequences. And yet, there is no real indication that politicians intend to introduce meaningful reforms to solve this problem.
A recent testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee by Dr. Danielle Martin, former head of the Canadian Doctors for Medicare, has given Canadians the chance to indulge in what may be a favourite pastime -- criticizing the American health care system. While the American health care system has some important shortcomings, the same holds true for Canada's. Inordinately long wait times, medical resource shortages, and ballooning healthcare costs have become defining characteristics of healthcare in our country -- and denigrating the American approach will not fix those problems.
Canada's health expenditures as a share of the economy are, after accounting for our younger population, higher compared to every other developed nation with universal health insurance. Yet Canadians endure some of the longest delays for emergency care, primary care, specialist consultations, and elective surgery in the developed world.
The Canadian health care system is not free -- in fact, Canadian families pay heavily for healthcare through the tax system. That high price paints the long wait times and lack of medical technologies in Canada in a very different light.
Waiting is a defining characteristic of Canadian health care. Canadians wait, often interminably, for access to health care services. Canada's wait times are among the longest in the developed world. And, contrary to popular belief, Canada's terrible wait times are not the result of insufficient health care spending. In 2009 (the most recent year for which comparable statistics are available), Canada's health care system ranked as the developed world's most expensive universal-access system. The solution to Canada's waiting time woes is sensible health policy reform that would employ private competition in the delivery of universally accessible hospital and surgical services .
Many Canadians have developed an insidious culture of self-satisfaction that comes with being told repetitively by politicians and media that we have "the best health care system in the world." We have somehow taken this patent lie as a slice of authentic Canadiana. It makes us feel good, safe and comfortable. But you don't have a "comprehensive and universal" system if it takes two years to get a hip replaced, or eight months to get an MRI after a hard knock to the head. How can we keep a straight face and call our system a caring and "universal" one if many have no where to go?
The Ontario government has promised to reduce its $16-billion deficit substantially over the next few years, and tackling health-care cost growth has to be part of the solution.In response, the Canadian Medical Association has speculated that doctors may move to jurisdictions where physician earnings are on the rise, and that wait times in Ontario may increase as a result of the cuts.