Issues & Insights

Welcome To Canada — The Doctor Won’t See You Now, But The Undertaker Will

Earlier this month, Boy Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Taylor Swift to take her tour to Canada, where she so far has no concert dates. “We hope to see you soon,” he tweeted. If she does, she’d better hope none of her crew becomes ill. A person could expire while waiting to see a doctor in Canada.

The Vancouver-based Fraser Institute, which has long documented Canada’s miserable government-run health care system, estimates the cost of waiting for care “for patients who were in the queue in 2022 was almost $3.6 billion … an average of about $2,925 for each of the estimated 1,228,047 Canadians waiting for treatment.”

The real toll is actually worse than that. Fraser’s “conservative estimate” does not place an “intrinsic value on the time individuals spend waiting in a reduced capacity outside of the work week.” When evenings and weekends are entered into the calculation, minus eight hours of sleep each night, the estimated cost of waiting reaches “$10.9 billion, or about $8,897 per person.”

In 2022, it took 12.6 weeks for the average Canadian to land an appointment with a specialist after a referral from a general practitioner. Another 14.8 weeks would elapse after that appointment before treatment by the specialist could begin. Fraser said that ​​taken together, “the total median wait time in Canada for medical treatment was 27.4 weeks in 2022 – the longest in the survey’s history.”

As one might expect, the delays are deadly, and are becoming deadlier. Research from Second Street (a think tank that tells “the stories of Canadians from all walks of life and how they’re affected – for better or worse – by government decisions”) found that a record number of Canadians died awaiting care during the country’s 2021-22 fiscal year.

“​​At least 13,581 patients died while waiting for surgeries, procedures and diagnostic scans,” the report says. “This year’s total is up from last year’s total of 11,581.”

The delays were “anywhere from less than a month to over eight years.” In most instances, “the number of patients who died waiting for a diagnostic scan was significantly higher than the number of patients who died while waiting for surgery.”

This is what happens when the government gives the people it is supposed to protect only two health care choices: They can get by as best as they are able while languishing on a government waiting list for surgery or other medical services; or they can leave the country for care, an option that is not for everyone. 

Canada’s medical care arrangement, the model for the system the Democrats want to inflict on the U.S., is such a botch that lawmakers have plans to rework funding “to improve health care across the country.” The better path would be privatization. But there’s no real movement in that direction, even though 61% of the country “believes increased privatization or hybrid models are a ‘necessary evolution’ for optimum care” (28%), or are “curious but hesitant” about loosening the government’s chokehold on care (33%). Only 39% gave privatization a hard “no.” Maybe the morticians’ lobby in Canada has more clout than anyone thought.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • As a Psychiatrist who has worked as a consultant in the NZ NHS, and has been home in the US for 15 years, the problem is straightforward: if you want to reduce wait times, you need to have some reserve in your system. That, by definition, means increased expense.

    Otherwise, Healthcare can be good, cheap, or fast: pick two. The Canadians opted for cheap and slow, thinking that would allow for good.

    However, long wait times decrease quality of care. Everyone likes to bang on the system in the USA; however, we have excess mortality due to increased freedom—gun deaths, which are due to that which prevents Joe Biden from being a dictator, and auto deaths, because we’re huge and we drive.

    Once you get to the ER alive, things change dramatically. Other than maybe Israel, because of their experience, there’s no place I would rather go for trauma care than the USA.

  • This is the NHI zystem thst the ruling Anc want to force South Africa on to

  • If EVERY Canadian, including the elites and especially the politicians, were required by law to participate in the Canadian healthcare system without preferential treatment, and were FORBIDDEN by law to seek medical care outside of Canada, this problem would be cleaned up in a year.

  • I am a retired general surgeon(ten years) with a wife who has severe degenerative lumbar spine arthritis documented in an MRI done late June 2022. She was referred to a neurosurgeon in Victoria BC about two hours drive south of us at the end of August 2022. She had a CT scan of her lumbar and thoracic spine in February 2023 documenting worsening of her problem. She was housebound due to chronic back pain beginning July 2022. She was one of 150 cases on his waiting list and has yet to see him in the office. She was booked for a bone scan in October 2023. His office answering machine stated last year that his waiting time is 18-24 months. I was in surgical practice in Victoria BC from 89-2001 when I finally left due to long hours and 6-12 month waiting lists for elective procedures and moved to the US. I retired in 2011 and moved back to Canada. After extensive searching, we found a neurosurgeon in Tacoma WA who saw my wife in mid January, booked her for an epidural steroid injection done in early February, and then a follow up apppointment in March. This was followed by a six hour procedure on April 13th with a five day stay in hospital and a medevac flight home from Boeing Field to Nanaimo BC near our place. We have Medicare Part A for inpatient coverage but no coverage for the surgery, aneesthesia, outpatient testing etc. Now about three months postop, my wife has her life back and able to travel again with a trip booked back to see family in Ontario and then on to Nova Scotia. The neurosurgeon in Victoria has no control or influence on the waiting list. That problem rests with the administration and government funding model and is now worse than when I left for the US in 2001. We had the resources to pay for this but few do and languish in pain and misery on the waiting list. The US has lots of problems with its health care industry but access is not one of them. We are grateful for the care provided by Dr. Eliott Min who was compassionate, professional and had the best training at top centers in the US.

  • The Canadian (and all other countries with government run health care systems) system saves money by denying care. It is that simple. On the other hand, there is a lot of wasted money. Doctors refuse to work long hours or overtime if they are not rewarded.

  • Many Canadians would be outraged by this article because it tells the truth. And most of them can’t handle the truth. I know, I have family that live in Canada and they are constantly deluding themselves into thinking they have the best medical care in the world. I guess it’s relative? If you’re only used to a system that buries a lot of folks and there are no alternatives then to your way of thinking it’s the best! I’ll take the US system any day over any other damn system in the world, worts and all?

  • Canadians are all about bending our ears and telling us how superior their medical system is to ours but all they can do is repeat old gossip about Americans dying on the streets like flies and people having to use their lifes savings to get major medical procedures. All a fantasy of course.

    If you can afford it in the US you can pay for your own medical care but if you can’t we have a Social Services rep at all our hospitals and you can apply to get any major costs waived. Plus, you have the option of having your own insurance which 80plus percent of us do. I don’t know anybody who went into the poor house by having to pay medical bills.

    Furthermore, the Canadian system will not pay for any medical procedure. You’re alotted so much money for each procedure and that has to be okd by a board of medical personnell. If you have a rare decease they do not cover it if it’s not on their list. There are many cases of young people having to come to the US for treatment of certain deceases that are not covered under the Canada Health act. And we normally eat the costs for those procedures. Because we’re not into letting minor children die because their decease isn’t on our list of approved procedures. A death list like Sarah Palin said about the dirty dumpacraps plan to overhauls our entire medical system in 08!. And she was right. That to me is Babaric!

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