Leaving Canada for Medical Care 2011

Among the consequences of poor access to health care in Canada is the reality that some Canadians will ultimately receive the care they require outside of the country. Some of these patients will have been sent out of country by the public health care system due to a lack of available resources or the fact that some procedures or equipment are not provided in their home jurisdiction, says Nadeem Esmail of the Fraser Institute.

Others, which are of more interest here, will have chosen to leave Canada in response to concerns about quality to avoid some of the adverse medical consequences of waiting for care such as worsening of their condition, poorer outcomes following treatment, or simply to avoid delay. Measuring the size of this population allows for comparative assessment of Canada's health system's quality.

In 2011, a significant number of Canadians -- an estimated 46,159 -- received treatment outside of the country.

This figure constitutes roughly 1 percent of all patients for non-emergency medical care.

Increases between 2010 and 2011 in the estimated number of patients going outside Canada for treatment were seen in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Only Ontario saw a decrease in the number of patients seeking treatment outside of Canada.

At the same time, the national median wait time for treatment after consultation with a specialist increased from 9.3 weeks in 2010 to 9.5 weeks in 2011.

Furthermore, the methodology that produced these figures likely underestimates the number of Canadians leaving the country to receive care.

These numbers are based on specialist responses, which means that patients who leave Canada without consulting a specialist are not likely to be included in the count.

The counts are also based on the number of procedures estimated to have been performed in Canada, which is less than the number of patients consulted and less than the number of Canadians who would have required treatment, including those who left Canada to seek it.

Clearly, many of those who left the country to receive care were driven by a desire to return more quickly to their lives, to seek out superior quality care, or perhaps to save their own lives or avoid the risk of disability.

Source: Nadeem Esmail, "Leaving Canada for Medical Care 2011," Fraser Institute, July/August 2012.


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