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This article was published 8/12/2015 (1437 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Canadians are waiting slightly longer for treatment from a medical specialist, the Fraser Institute said Tuesday in its annual wait-time report.
The median wait time this year was 18.3 weeks from referral to treatment, compared with 18.2 a year ago in a dozen specialist categories.
Manitoba is slightly above the national ranking with a wait time of 19.4 weeks. That’s a lot lower than 2013, when this province’s wait times peaked at 25.9 weeks.
Those broad strokes made sense to Manitoba Health Minister Sharon Blady, but she said some of the institute’s data don’t track with the numbers she sees.
"I can’t quite figure out where they got some of our rankings," she said. "But I always appreciate someone taking a look at these things systematically."
The Fraser Institute’s 2015 report on waiting lists in Canada is based on an annual survey of physicians from across the country.
In 1993, the year the think tank published its first study, the national wait time was just 9.3 weeks.
The longest waits nationwide are for procedures such as hip and knee replacement surgery.
Saskatchewan now has the shortest median wait in the country at 13.6 weeks, a dramatic turnaround from 2011 when it was among the country’s longest wait times at 29 weeks. "These protracted wait times are not the result of insufficient spending but because of poor policy. In fact, it’s possible to reduce wait times without higher spending or abandoning universality," said Bacchus Barua, senior economist at the Fraser Institute’s Centre for Health Policy Studies and author of the report.
Saskatchewan is followed by Ontario at 14.2 weeks, Quebec at 16.4 weeks and Manitoba at 19.4 weeks.
Data was collected from January to April through questionnaires sent to more than 11,000 doctors in 12 specialities. Fewer than 2,500 responded to the mail-in questionnaire, including 121 in Manitoba, a response rate of 21 per cent.
Taken year over year, people can accurately draw conclusions on trends with those numbers, Probe Research pollster Curtis Brown said Tuesday.
But by specific procedure, per specialty, in any given year, the same numbers can present a problem, Brown said.
"It becomes a challenge when samples are that small to draw a definite conclusion," he said.
"Of the 120 (doctors in Manitoba), the margin of error on that is over eight per cent."
In other provinces, the numbers of doctors who answered the questionnaire were even smaller — 36 in Newfoundland and Labrador and 12 in Prince Edward Island.
The entire report is available here.
Alexandra is a veteran news reporter who has covered stories for the Winnipeg Free Press since 1987. She held the medical beat for nearly 17 years, and today specializes in coverage of Indigenous-related issues. She is among the most versatile journalists on the paper’s staff.
Updated on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 5:44 PM CST: writethrough