A new study out of Dalhousie University suggests lower-income Canadians face lengthier health care wait times when trying to access the nation’s publicly-funded health care system.
“The study clearly shows that there is income related inequality and those who have a higher income, they tend to have less of an issue with wait times compared to poor individuals,” said Mohammad Hajizadeh, an assistant professor of health economics at Dalhousie, and author of the study.
Hajizadeh has spent the past two years analyzing 10 years worth of data from Canadian Community Health Surveys.
The research was inspired when he immigrated to Canada and he realized timely access to health care was a widespread issue.
“My study shows that five per cent of Canadians have highlighted the fact that they have an issue with lengthy wait times for receiving health care services,” he said.
The data was based on self-reported surveys and varies from province to province.
Quebec residents reported the longest wait times, coming in at seven per cent.
Hajizadeh then dug into determining whether income played a role in lengthy wait times and found that in several provinces it did.
“So if you look at Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, they are performing way worse in terms of lengthy wait time,” said Hajizadeh, pointing to a graph that analyzed his data.
Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia are the other provinces impacted by income inequality, according to the study.
The results don’t come as a surprise to those who work on the front lines of community health care.
“Our health care system often assumes that people are coming from a middle class background, or that they have access to the phone, or even now we’re moving towards our health care system interacting with folks online,” said Megan MacBride, a social worker at the North End Community Health Centre in Halifax.
MacBride believes these assumptions are negatively impacting vulnerable Canadians.
“So, because we have that assumption in our broader health care system, those who are living on a low income or struggling with other barriers like language; it’s even more of a challenge than the health care system assumes,” she said.
The study also shows immigrants face lengthier wait times when trying to access health care.
Hajizadeh hopes his work inspires further research so that eventually all Canadians are able to equally access the health care system.