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Medical Wait Times Cost $3.6 Billion in Lost Wages Last Year

May 9, 2023 from the Fraser Institute


Wait times for medical treatment can have significant implications for patients and the healthcare system as a whole. In Canada, one measure of the impact of these wait times is the value of time lost while waiting for treatment.


Valuing only the hours lost during the average work week, the estimated cost of waiting for care in Canada in 2022 amounted to nearly $3.6 billion. This calculation takes into account patients who were in the queue for treatment. On average, each of the estimated 1,228,047 Canadians waiting for treatment in 2022 incurred a cost of approximately $2,925.


It’s important to note that the above estimate is conservative in nature, as it only considers the hours lost during the average work week. This means that it does not assign any intrinsic value to the time individuals spend waiting in a reduced capacity outside of regular work hours. When all hours of the week, including evenings and weekends, but excluding eight hours of sleep per night, are taken into account, the estimated cost of waiting increases significantly to $10.9 billion. This equates to roughly $8,897 per person.


While the aforementioned estimates provide valuable insights, it’s crucial to acknowledge that they only capture costs directly borne by individuals waiting for treatment. Other costs, such as the time spent by family members in caring for the individual waiting and the resulting lost productivity, are not included. Non-monetary medical costs, such as the increased risk of mortality or adverse events due to prolonged delays in treatment, are also not accounted for in these estimates.





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