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Fraser Institute: Health Care Wait Times Cost Canadians More Than $1 Billion in Lost Productivity

CALGARY, ALBERTA -- (Marketwired) -- 03/24/14 -- Canadians lost a combined $1.1 billion, or an average of $1,202 per patient, as a result of lengthy waits for medically necessary health care in 2013, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

The study, The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care, calculates the average value of time lost during the work week for each of the estimated 928,120 patients waiting for surgery in Canada last year.

When calculations include hours outside the work week-evenings and weekends, excluding eight hours of sleep per night-the estimated cost of waiting jumps from $1.1 billion to $3.4 billion, or an average of $3,681 per patient.

"The negative impact of wait times on the productivity of patients and their ability to participate fully in life is an issue too often ignored in the health care debate. Reduced productivity in the workplace, or reduced ability to engage with family and friends, may impact family income and increase stress for Canadian patients," said Nadeem Esmail, study author and Fraser Institute director of health policy studies.

Unfortunately, Canadians are waiting longer for health care and thus face greater losses in productivity.

Despite a period of improvement (2004 to 2009) in both wait times (from specialist to treatment) and the private cost of waiting, notes the study, since 2009 wait times have increased along with the cost borne by patients. Consequently, the private cost of waiting is now two per cent higher (after inflation) than in 2004.

Among the provinces, residents of Saskatchewan faced the highest private cost of waiting per patient ($2,022), followed by Manitoba ($1,977) and Nova Scotia ($1,732). Patients in Ontario endured the lowest private cost of waiting ($867), followed by Quebec ($1,079) and British Columbia ($1,191).

"Without sensible health policy reform, waiting will remain a defining characteristic of the Canadian health care experience, and delays, while negatively impacting the health and wellbeing of patients, will also continue to rob patients of valuable time," Esmail said.

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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 86 think-tanks. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research.

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