More Canadians choose to be medical tourists: report

WATCH: A new study finds a growing number of Canadians are choosing to go abroad for non-emergency treatments. Allison Vuchnich reports.

TORONTO – A new Fraser Institute report suggests more Canadians are traveling abroad to receive medical treatment on foreign soil.

The study, “Leaving Canada for Medical Care,” estimates 52,513 Canadians left the country to receive non-emergency medical treatment in 2014, an increase of 26 per cent compared to the previous year.

Physicians in British Columbia reported the highest proportion of patients (in a province) receiving treatment abroad (1.6 per cent), while Ontario had the largest number of patients estimated to have left the country at 26,252.

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The data stems from a national survey conducted in 2014 of doctors across Canada in 12 major medical specialities.

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It also reported physicians specializing in internal medicine procedures — such as colonoscopies, gastroscopies and angiographies — had the highest number of patients leaving Canada for treatment with 6,559.

“Faced with long waits for treatment, it should come as little surprise that so many Canadians ultimately choose to be medical tourists.”

The numbers come at a time when an increasing number of foreign patients are coming to Canada to pay for medical treatment in publicly funded hospitals.

The Fraser Institute study, however, said there is “no definitive data” on why Canadians go elsewhere for medical attention.

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It did point out that possible reasons include lack of available medical resources at home, concerns about medical quality and lengthy wait times for procedures.

“In 2014, the average patient in Canada could expect to wait almost 10 weeks for medically necessary treatment after seeing specialist,” said the study’s co-author Bacchus Barua in a media release.

“This wait time is more than three weeks longer than what physicians consider to be clinically reasonable.”

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By The Numbers (by province):

1. British Columbia: 9,799

2. Alberta: 5,988

3. Saskatchewan: 1,050

4. Manitoba: 1,048

5. Ontario: 26,252

6. Quebec: 6,284

7. New Brunswick: 742

8. Nova Scotia: 975

9. Newfoundland and Labrador: 327

10. Prince Edward Island: 48