Fraser Institute News Release: Atlantic province’s health-care wait times longest in Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, Dec. 10, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Atlantic Canadian patients continue to endure the longest health-care wait times in the country, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“Consistently long wait times remain a defining characteristic of the patient experience in Atlantic Canada,” said Bacchus Barua, Associate Director of the Fraser Institute’s Centre for Health Policy Studies and co-author of Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2020. “While this year’s reported wait times have been undoubtedly influenced by the ongoing pandemic, historical data suggests they are also the result of decades of policy inertia.”

The study, an annual survey of physicians from across Canada, reports a median wait time of 22.6 weeks—the longest ever recorded—and 143 per cent higher than the 9.3 weeks Canadians waited in 1993, when national estimates of the wait for medically necessary elective treatments were first calculated.

The study examines the total wait time faced by patients across 12 medical specialties from referral by a general practitioner (i.e. family doctor), to consultation with a specialist, to when the patient ultimately receives treatment.

Among the provinces, Prince Edward Island recorded the longest wait time in Canada at 46.5 weeks. Followed by Nova Scotia at 43.8, New Brunswick at 41.3, Alberta at 29.4 weeks and Newfoundland & Labrador at 29.2 weeks.

Likewise, the longest wait times for specialist consultations after being referred by a GP are found in P.E.I. at 27.2 weeks, New Brunswick at 24, and Newfoundland & Labrador at 14.1 weeks.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the survey’s response rate, but more than one-in-ten physicians across the country still participated, with more than 1,200 responses. Further, almost three decades of pre-COVID data confirm that wait times in Canada are not just long but have gotten progressively worse.

“Long wait times aren’t simply minor inconveniences, they can result in increased suffering for patients, lost productivity at work, a decreased quality of life, and in the worst cases, disability or death,” Barua said.

“While combating COVID-19 certainly requires our immediate attention, we should also work towards returning to a better-normal - with shorter wait times - once the pandemic is over.”

Median wait times by province (in weeks)

British Columbia24.026.6Quebec16.318.8
Alberta28.029.4New Brunswick39.741.3
Saskatchewan26.021.7Nova Scotia33.343.8
Ontario16.017.4Newfoundland and Labrador23.429.2

Bacchus Barua, Associate Director, Centre for Health Policy Studies
Fraser Institute

For interviews with Bacchus Barua or for more information, please contact:
Drue MacPherson, Junior Media Relations Coordinator Fraser Institute
Tel: (604) 688-0221 Ext. 721

Follow the Fraser Institute on Twitter and Facebook

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit