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Access to health care services in Canada, 2003

Analytical report

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  • The HSAS provides timely data regarding patients’ experiences accessing health care services including waiting times for specialized services. Most importantly, the information, in most cases, is provided at the provincial level, thus allowing for a comprehensive assessment of access to care across Canada.

  • Overall, most individuals reported waiting 3 months or less for specialized services: close to 90% for specialist visit and diagnostic tests and slightly over 80% for non-emergency surgery.

  • The median waiting times for specialized services was 4.0 weeks for specialist visits, 4.3 weeks for non-emergency surgery, and 3.0 weeks for diagnostic tests.

  • There was some variation in waiting times across provinces: The proportion of individuals who waited longer than 3 months for a specialist visit ranged from a low of 8% in PEI to a high of 21% in Newfoundland and Labrador . Conversely, Newfoundland had the lowest rate (10%) of individuals waiting longer than three months for non-emergency surgery. The rate was highest in Saskatchewan (29%).

  • Approximately one in five individuals who accessed a specialist visit for a new illness or condition reported experiencing difficulties. The lowest rates were observed in Prince Edward Island (14%) and Quebec (16%). Among those who accessed a diagnostic test, 16% indicated that they faced difficulties. The lowest rate was observed in Quebec, where 9% indicated that they had faced difficulties. Long waits were identified as the primary barrier to specialized services.

  • The proportion of individuals who reported that they were affected by waiting for care ranged from 10% for non-emergency surgery to 19% for specialist visits. The primary effects of waiting for specialized care were worry, stress and anxiety, pain, and problems with activities of daily living.

  • Among those who had waited for specialist visits, 29% reported unacceptable waits. These results ranged from a low of 19% in Prince Edward Island to a high of 34% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Among those who had waited for non-emergency surgery, 17% considered their waiting time unacceptable. The provincial rates ranged from a low of 13% in Manitoba to a high of 25% in British Columbia.

  • One in five individuals who waited for a diagnostic test reported that their waiting time was unacceptable. The provincial rates varied from a low of 15% in New Brunswick to a high of 30% in Manitoba.

  • Despite the fact that most individuals had a regular family doctor, almost one in five individuals of those who required routine care experienced difficulties accessing care. The rates were significantly lower in Saskatchewan (12%), Alberta (13%) and British Columbia (12%), and significantly higher in Newfoundland and Labrador (20%) and Quebec (19%).

  • The top two barriers to receiving routine or on-going care were difficulties getting an appointment, and long waits for an appointment.

  • Overall, 16% of Canadians who had required health information or advice indicated that they had experienced difficulties accessing care. The rates were significantly lower in Saskatchewan (13%) and Alberta (13%), and significantly higher in Ontario (18%).

  • Approximately one in four Canadians who required immediate care for a minor health problem experienced difficulties. The results ranged from a low of 17% in Saskatchewan to a high of 27% in Prince Edward Island. The top two barriers to receiving care were long in-office waits and difficulty getting an appointment.

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Date modified: 2004-07-07 Important Notices
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