Waiting for treatment has become a defining characteristic of Canadian health care. In order to document the queues for visits to specialists and for diagnostic and surgical procedures in the country, the Fraser Institute has—for almost three decades—surveyed specialist physicians across 12 specialties and 10 provinces.

This edition of Waiting Your Turn indicates that, overall, waiting times for medically necessary treatment have increased since last year. Specialist physicians surveyed report a median waiting time of 25.6 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment—longer than the wait of 22.6 weeks reported in 2020. This year’s wait time is the longest wait time recorded in this survey’s history and is 175% longer than in 1993, when it was just 9.3 weeks.

There is a great deal of variation in the total waiting time faced by patients across the provinces. Ontario reports the shortest total wait—18.5 weeks—while Nova Scotia reports the longest—53.2 weeks. There is also a great deal of variation among specialties. Patients wait longest between a GP referral and neurosurgical procedures (49.2 weeks), while those waiting for radiation treatments begin treatment in 3.7 weeks.

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