A report from the Fraser Institute has brought more attention to a growing trend in Canada: People going to other countries for medical treatment.
The report states that“an estimated 63,459 Canadians received non-emergency medical treatment outside Canada.”
B.C. had the highest estimated percentage of patients leaving Canada for healthcare at 2.4%.
Ontario had the largest total number of people who are estimated to have left, with 26,513 seeking treatment abroad.
“General surgeries” were the most cited reason for patients seeking treatment elsewhere.
The Fraser Institute notes that escalating wait times could be driving people to seek care outside of Canada. In 2016, wait times for “medically necessary treatment after seeing a specialist” increased to 10.6 weeks. This is nearly 4 weeks than what “physicians consider to be clinically reasonable (7.0 weeks).”
The report points to significant issues with our healthcare system, and the need for an honest discussion about how to fix Canadian healthcare. No Canadian citizen should go without healthcare because they can’t afford to pay for it. At the same time, it’s unacceptable for Canadians to be forced to wait so long for treatment that they have to go somewhere else, and that’s an option available only to those with financial resources. Many Canadians are stuck waiting for – or are even denied – essential treatment.
That’s why we need to get past the same pattern of discussing healthcare that has led our system to stagnate. Any discussion of improvement is often shouted-down by people saying how “we don’t want American-style healthcare,” as if there aren’t other healthcare systems that provide universal coverage with lower wait times and better service.
In an era of abundant information and endless opportunities for learning, Canada must look at our healthcare system with fresh eyes, look at best practices from more successful systems, and ensure all Canadians get the best healthcare in the world.