The waiting time for health care weighs on Canadians’ productivity

In 2013, delays for health care generated a loss of productivity of $1,202 per patient. In all, this loss of earnings amounted to $1.1 billion for the country’s economy. This is what a study by the Fraser Institute has found.


Waiting for treatment costs the country dearly in terms of productivity. The total damage was $1,202 per patient last year, or $1.1 billion for the 928,120 people who had to wait for treatment after a specialist consultation, according to the report Reducing Wait Times for Health Care: What Canada Can Learn from Theory and International Experience conducted by the Fraser Institute. In addition, Canadian patients had to wait 9.6 weeks to obtain care. These data were calculated from the average amount of time lost during a workweek for each patient waiting for treatment.


Longer waits in Quebec


In Quebec, the situation is hardly any better, according to the study. Although the the cost of this delay is $1,079 per patient, or $267.7 million overall, the delays are longer than the national average, climbing to 10.4 weeks. However, Saskatchewan breaks the records in terms of costs at $2,022, the highest in Canada. This is followed by Manitoba with $1,977, Nova Scotia at $1,732, and British Colombia bringing up the rear at $1,191. On the other hand, you have to go to Ontario to see patients who are better off, since their wait times for specialist care falls to 7.1 weeks and the loss in terms of production is no more than $867.


Although the study does not disclose the reasons for these provincial differences, an initial explanation can be found in the earnings levels which vary from one province to another. We know that wages are lower in Quebec than in Ontario and Alberta. Average weekly pay is $796 in Quebec, compared to $901 in Ontario. Therefore, losses of productivity are also less costly.


Higher costs than in 2012


Furthermore, the report shows that the financial consequences to Canada of this delay has grown 6% compared to 2012 and 2% compared to 2004, the year in which costs peaked. Nadeem Esmail, director of the Institute and author of part of the study, said that the aspect of the cost of waiting for health care is often overlooked, while it causes a loss of productivity and active participation in society. Other possible consequences for the patient include a drop in earnings and increased stress.


The inability of governments to limit these delays not only has harmful consequences on the well-being of Canadians but also slows the economy nationally. The waiting times needed to get treatment influences investment in education and training, parental involvement, support for children of school age and the rate of absenteeism and presence at work, the study pointed out. And yet, although its not possible to accurately estimate the financial benefits, everything leads us to believe they would be significant.

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