Patients in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have the longest wait times in the country for medically necessary surgeries, according to a report by the Fraser Institute.
Patients in New Brunswick have the longest wait times at 38.8 weeks — Nova Scotia is a close second with an average wait time of 34.8 weeks. According to the Fraser Institute, the average Canadian wait time is 20 weeks.
Compared to 1993 — when the institute began tracking wait times — the amount of time patients wait has increased significantly.
The average wait between a general practitioner (GP) referral and a specialist’s appointment for New Brunswick patients is 21.5 weeks. Patients then wait an average of another 17.4 weeks between their meeting with a specialist and receiving treatment.
In Nova Scotia, patients wait an average of 17.1 weeks for an appointment with a specialist after being referred by a GP. They then wait an average of another 17.7 weeks for treatment.
These numbers differ a great deal from what the Fraser Institute refers to as “reasonable” wait times — which came from a survey of specialists on what they “regard as clinically ‘reasonable.'”
In New Brunswick, the average reasonable wait time between an appointment with a specialist and treatments is 9.4 weeks. In Nova Scotia, it’s 11.3 weeks.
The actual wait time for New Brunswickers skyrocketed after 2014 from about nine to 12 weeks to 17.4 weeks.
By specialty, patients in Canada wait the longest for appointments with a neurosurgery specialist, however they waited the longest between specialist appointment and treatment for orthopaedic procedures.
Aging populations a factor
According to Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine, the aging population in Maritime provinces is a large contributor to the increase in wait times.
“The reality is over 1,000 Nova Scotians now turn 65 every month, and so the aging cohort is really impacting,” Glavine said Wednesday.
“While we’re doing more, we have the demographic working hard against us.”
One of the biggest increases for Nova Scotia wait times was urgent cardiac surgery which jumped from one week a year ago to eight weeks.
Glavine said steps are being taken to accommodate new surgeries, including opening a new surgical theatre at Community Hants Hospital which will accomodate 1,000 more small orthopaedic surgeries. He also spoke to the decrease in wait times for MRIs in the province.
According to the Fraser Institute, the last time wait times were this high in Canada was in 2011, when the average was 19 weeks.
“The four Atlantic provinces and the province of B.C. are the five provinces where the wait times are the longest, well they’re also the provinces with the oldest population,” said New Brunswick Health Minister Victor Boudreau.
“This aging population is going to have a strain on our health care system, the older someone gets the more care they require.”
Boudreau said the government is working to recruit doctors to fill vacant positions across the province and make investments in healthcare infrastructire.