Fraser Institute News Release: Health-care wait times in Alberta eclipse six months; nearly 11 weeks longer than Saskatchewan

CBJ Newsmakers

CALGARY, Alberta, Dec. 04, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Alberta’s median wait time for medically necessary treatment was 26.1 weeks this year—nearly 11 weeks longer than patients in neighbouring Saskatchewan, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

Across Canada, the median wait time in 2018 was 19.8 weeks.

“Patients in Alberta are spending significantly more time on health-care wait lists than patients in Saskatchewan, which should concern citizens and policymakers alike,” said Bacchus Barua, associate director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute and author of Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2018.

The study examines the total wait time patients face 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.

This is the second year in a row Alberta’s median wait time has averaged longer than 26 weeks. In 1993, when the Fraser Institute began tracking medical wait times, patients waited just 10.5 weeks in Alberta.

By comparison, Saskatchewan reported the longest wait times in Canada in 2008 (28.8 weeks), but now has the shortest wait times in the country at 15.4 weeks.

This year, wait times in Alberta were longest for orthopaedic surgery (55.3 weeks) and shortest for medical oncology (4.8 weeks).

“Long waits for medical treatment aren’t a trivial matter—they can increase suffering for patients, decrease quality of life, and in the worst cases, lead to disability or death,” Barua said.

“It’s time for policymakers to consider reforming the outdated policies that continue to contribute to long wait times in Alberta and across Canada.”

Median wait times by province (in weeks)
PROVINCE 2017 2018 PROVINCE 2017 2018
British Columbia 26.6 23.2 Quebec 20.6 15.8
Alberta 26.5 26.1 New Brunswick 41.7 45.1
Saskatchewan 19.8 15.4 Nova Scotia 37.7 34.4
Manitoba 24.9 26.1 Prince Edward Island 32.4 39.8
Ontario 15.4 15.7 Newfoundland and Labrador 21.5 22.0

NOTE: The number of survey responses in Atlantic Canada were lower than other provinces, which may result in reported median wait times being higher or lower than those actually experienced.

Bacchus Barua, Associate Director, Health Policy Studies
Fraser Institute

To arrange media interviews or for more information, please contact:
Bryn Weese, Media Relations Specialist, Fraser Institute
(604) 688-0221 Ext. 589

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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