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Fraser Institute: Medical wait times cost Canadian patients almost $4.1 billion in lost wages in 2021

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Long waits for surgery and medical treatment cost Canadians almost $4.1 billion in lost wages and productivity last year (2021), finds a study by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

Preliminary data suggest that an estimated 1.4 million patients waited for medically necessary treatment last year, and each lost an estimated $2,848 (on average) due to lost wages and reduced productivity during working hours.

The study – The Private Cost of Public Queues for Medically Necessary Care, 2022 – draws upon data from the Fraser Institute’s Waiting Your Turn study, an annual survey of Canadian physicians who, in 2021, reported the national median waiting time from specialist appointment to treatment was 14.5 weeks.

Crucially, the $4.1 billion in lost wages is likely a conservative estimate because it doesn’t account for the additional 11.1-week wait to see a specialist after receiving a referral from a general practitioner.

Taken together (11.1 weeks and 14.5 weeks), the total median wait time in Canada for medical treatment was 25.6 weeks in 2021—the longest in the survey’s history.

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