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EDITORIAL – ‘Not surprising’ patients tired of waiting go abroad for care

(Fraser Institute graphic)

(Fraser Institute graphic)

An ArmchairMayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

IF MORE PROOF was needed of the unhealthy state of B.C.’s healthcare system, a report from the Fraser Institute on Wednesday provides it.

According to the Vancouver-based think tank, a new study released Wednesday estimates that 45,619 Canadians received non-emergency medical treatment outside the country last year. That’s a very slight decrease from the year before.

Of particular interest is the fact that the second biggest number were from B.C. Here, 10,315 patients went outside Canada for treatment, more than twice as many as were from Alberta (4,616).

Only Ontario chased more patients south of the border or elsewhere, with a total of 22,352, but B.C.’s number represented the highest proportion.

Urology procedures were the biggest reason but high numbers also left for ophthalmology treatment, general surgery and internal procedures such as colonoscopies, gastroscopies and angiographies.

The numbers are shocking, considering there is nothing exotic about such procedures. Colonoscopies, for example, are now recommended every five years for older men — surely our own healthcare system should be able to take care of routine regular health checks.

Why are people so desperate for care that they flee their own country to pay the high costs of treatment in other healthcare systems?

The answer from the Fraser Institute is that it “may include” wait times. While the institute doesn’t back that up with evidence, the speculation is not unreasonable.

“Considering Canada’s long healthcare wait times and their potential negative effects, it’s not surprising that so many Canadians are travelling abroad for medical treatment,” said Bacchus Barua, so-author of the study and senior economist for healthcare studies at the Fraser Institute.

The institute says Canadian patients faced a 9.8-week wait time for medically necessary treatment after seeing a specialist, three weeks longer than what physicians deem clinically reasonable.

Even U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump mentioned Canada’s healthcare in last Sunday’s debate, calling it “a disaster.”

“And if you haven’t noticed the Canadians, when they need a big operation, when something happens, they come into the United States in many cases because their system is so slow,” he said. “It’s catastrophic in certain ways.”

While Trump’s word is suspect on many things, there was a time Americans universally praised our health care.

The wait-time issue has been pushed out of the headlines lately as the B.C. doctor-shortage has become top of mind, but the Fraser Institute study shows our healthcare woes aren’t single-faceted.

Got an opinion? Leave a comment or write us a letter. The Fraser Institute’s study, “Leaving Canada for Medical Care, 2016,” can be viewed in its entirety here.

About Mel Rothenburger (7765 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – ‘Not surprising’ patients tired of waiting go abroad for care

  1. Bev Campbell // October 13, 2016 at 9:11 AM // Reply

    Pierre, are you denying that the problem of wait times for essential care exist? Or to see a specialist? I don’t think this editorial asked for opinions on the Fraser Institute or think tanks in general, this timely editorial attempts to being a problem into the forefront of reader’s minds. We need to collectively seek a cause and then a cure.

  2. Wouldn’t be nice if the Fraser Institute would dedicate their time and efforts to prepare solutions to benefit the breadth of society rather than finding all possible excuses to condemn public institutions? Plenty of cases have been reported highlighting inefficient private enterprises gone bankrupt or generally not providing good value to their customers.
    I never considered the Fraser Institute a “think tank” but more a trumpeter for narrow narratives.

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