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Canadians going abroad for health care

By Andrew Rickard | October 19 2016 09:45AM

While Donald Trump may have been exaggerating when he described Canada's health care system as "catastrophic" in the last presidential debate, The Fraser Institute points out that more than 45,000 Canadians left the country for non-emergency medical treatment last year.

The Fraser Institute has calculated that 45,619 Canadians received non-emergency medical treatment outside of Canada in 2015. Each year, the organisation surveys physicians in 12 major medical specialties and asks them to estimate how many of their patients sought care outside of the country during the last five months. Last year the largest number of Canadians left for urology procedures (4,974), followed by ophthalmology (4,635), general surgery (4,495), and internal medicine (3,959). Almost half (22,352) of these patients are believed to be from Ontario.

Long wait times are driving Canadians away

The study goes on to suggest that long wait times are driving Canadians away; patients can expect to wait 9.8 weeks for medically necessary treatment after seeing a specialist. The report says this is almost 3 weeks longer than the 7 weeks physicians consider to be clinically reasonable.

“While Mr. Trump’s characterization of Canada’s health-care system as 'catastrophic' may be a case of political hyperbole, we cannot ignore the very real issues that plague our system,” say authors Bacchus Barua, Ingrid Timmermans, Matthew Lau, and Feixue Ren. “We rank among the top spenders in the world when it comes to health care, and yet have fewer physicians and beds per person than the average OECD country and some of the longest wait times in the developed world.”

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