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Health care wait times may be linked to rise in female death rates: Fraser Institute


May 20, 2014
By Marketwired

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Canada's growing wait times for health care may have contributed to the deaths of 44,273 Canadian women between 1993 and 2009, a new study released by the Fraser Institute has concluded.

The study, The Effect of Wait Times on Mortality in Canada, examines the relationship between mortality rates and lengthy wait times for medically necessary care in Canada. As wait times between referral (from a general practitioner) and treatment increase, so does the rate of female mortality, the study found.

"Deaths resulting from delayed medical care are unacceptable. Canadian
taxpayers fund one of the developed world's most expensive universal
access health-care systems, yet delays for emergency care, primary care,
specialist consultation and elective surgery are among the longest in
the world," said Nadeem Esmail, study author and Fraser Institute senior
fellow.

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The estimated 44,273 deaths between 1993 and 2009
represent 2.5 per cent of all female deaths in Canada during that
16-year period, or 1.2 per cent of Canada's total mortality (male and
female).

More specifically, during that same 16-year period, for
every one-week increase in the post-referral wait time for medically
necessary elective procedures, three female Canadians died (per 100,000
women).

In a separate analysis, the study finds that changes in
wait times for cardiovascular treatments were associated with
approximately 662 potentially avoidable female deaths between 1994 and
2009. These deaths represent 0.16 per cent of avoidable female deaths
during the period

No significant relationship between wait times and male mortality rates was found.

So what drives this gender disparity?

Possible factors include an increased participation among women in the workforce and differences in access to medical services.

"While
the reasons for the potential gender difference remain unclear, the
solution to the problem is obvious. Lengthy wait times for medically
necessary treatment, and the deaths associated with them, are Canada's
shame, but we can solve both problems through sensible policy reform,"
Esmail said.

So what can be done?

"Countries with
relatively short health care wait times rely to varying degrees on
market incentives and private competition, such as cost-sharing and
competing private hospitals, within the universal health-care system.
Policymakers who cling to flawed policies, and argue against reform with
rhetoric rather than fact, should consider whether Canadians who die
while waiting for health care are being sacrificed to ideology," Esmail
said.

The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public
policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver,
Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, and ties to a global network of
think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to measure, study and
communicate the impact of competitive markets and government
intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's
independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts
for research.