In Canada, 35.16 million people live within 10 provinces and three territories. Out of that number, 85 percent are concentrated in just four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. The longest wait-lists are in these four provinces, although the specific needs in terms of medical procedures differ individually.
In Ontario, the Ministry of Health identifies average wait-times for medical procedures based on the experiences of patients who completed medical procedures within the last three months. According to their lists, at the end of June 2014, 21,210 patients waited 3.5 months for a general surgery and 40,527 patients waited more than five months for an ophthalmic surgery.
Orthopaedic surgeries have particularly long wait-lists: 6.2 months, ankle; 6.5 months, shoulder; and seven months, hip and knee replacements.
In Quebec, a new information system, called SIMASS,7 accesses up-to-date waiting list information. Data extracted from Aug. 23, 2014, shows 100,000 patients were waiting for surgery including 20,000 for more than six months. More than 50 percent are waiting for ambulatory surgery (day surgery).
In British Columbia, 71,000 patients were waiting as of July 31, 2014. For cataract surgeries, 16,545 patients – or 90 percent of all cases — have to wait seven months. Orthopaedic surgeries also have high wait-times: 3,002 patients need to wait 9.8 months for a hip replacement and 5,604 patients 10.3 months for a knee replacement. The highest wait-times are related to bariatric surgeries, for which patients need to wait more than 1.5 years. At a national level, one million Canadians are eligible for this medical procedure. However, only 6,000 bariatric surgeries were performed in 2013, with some patients needing to wait up to five years.
In Alberta, the data collection system is similar to Ontario’s. Time-wait estimates are based on the number of patients treated within the last three months. Both Alberta and Ontario have the highest wait-times in Canada for cataract surgeries, 8.4 months. Long wait-lists also exist for orthopaedic surgeries, especially for knee replacements for which patients wait, on average, almost 10 months.