Canadians leaving the country for medical care

by Nicolas Heffernan17 Apr 2015
Canadians showed their displeasure with the public health system by voting with their feet and going abroad to get medical care.
A new report by the Fraser Institute finds 52,513 people received treatment outside of the country in 2014, an increase from the 41,838 who travelled abroad in 2013.

“Clearly, the number of Canadians who ultimately receive their medical care in other countries is not insignificant,” said the study’s authors Bacchus Barua and Feixue Ren. “That a considerable number of Canadians travelled abroad and paid to escape the well-known failings of the Canadian health care system speaks volumes about how well the system is working for them.”

People aren’t leaving the country for cosmetic issues like plastic surgery. As a matter of fact plastic surgery was the lowest speciality Canadians travelled abroad for.

Instead, non-urgent issues related to neurosurgery was the highest reported area Canucks left the country for.

Some patients may have been sent out of country by the public health care system due to a lack of available resources or the fact that some procedures or equipment are not provided in their home jurisdiction. Others may have chosen to leave Canada in response to concerns about quality (Walker et al., 2009), seeking more advanced health care facilities, more state-of-the-art medical technologies, or better outcomes.

“Some patients may have left the country to avoid some of the adverse medical consequences of waiting for care, such as worsening of their condition, poorer outcomes following treatment, disability, or death.

British Columbian physicians reported the highest proportion of patients that received treatment abroad at 1.6 per cent, while physicians in Prince Edward Island reported only 0.4 per cent.

Increases between 2013 and 2014 in the estimated number of patients going outside Canada for treatment were seen in eight provinces: Ontario (from 19,118 to 26,252), British Columbia (8,146 to 9,799), Quebec (4,904 to 6,284), Alberta (5,527 to 5,988), New Brunswick (372 to 742), Saskatchewan (714 to 1,050), Nova Scotia (927 to 975) and Prince Edward Island (8 to 48).

“These numbers are not insubstantial,” argues the study. “They point to a sizeable number of Canadians whose needs and health care demands could not be satisfied within Canada’s borders.”