Hospital wait times last year cost Canadians $2.1 billion in lost wages and productivity, a new study suggests.

According to a report from the Fraser Institute, over one million people had to wait for medically necessary procedures, costing each person around $1,963 on average. 

While these data were from 2019 – prior to the coronavirus pandemic – the study predicts the cost could increase due to coronavirus measures requiring elective procedures to be delayed or cancelled. 

“Healthcare workers across Canada should be commended for the superb job they’re doing to get us through this global pandemic. However, once elective surgeries are allowed to proceed again, they will likely face further challenges as they tackle the ever-increasing backlog of patients waiting for care,” said the Institute’s associate director of health policy studies Bacchus Barua.  

Data from the Fraser Institute’s 2019 Waiting Your Turn study were used to arrive at the results. The study found people waited a median time of 10.8 weeks for specialist appointments. 

The Fraser Institute called its estimate “conservative” because it did not take into accounts the additional 10.1-week wait to see specialists after receiving a referral. 

“Even before we started postponing surgeries as a result of COVID-19, patients across Canada were waiting a significant amount of time, and long health-care wait times mean lost wages and a reduced quality of life for patients,” said Barua. 

“Now is the time to consider policy options that may benefit patients and alleviate strain on our public health-care system once the COVID- 19 crisis has run its course.”

Alberta reported the largest estimated losses due to waiting for healthcare with $495 million lost. Alberta was followed closely behind by Ontario, which the Fraser Institute estimates lost $488 million due to wait times. 

Both Alberta and Ontario have recently announced that they will be resuming some elective surgeries as the provinces begin to ease some of the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

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