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FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 27, 1995 file picture, a large Canadian flag is passed through a crowd in as thousands streamed into Montreal from all over Canada to join Quebecers rallying for national unity three days before a referendum that could propel Quebec toward secession. In Canada FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 27, 1995 file picture, a large Canadian flag is passed through a crowd in as thousands streamed into Montreal from all over Canada to join Quebecers rallying for national unity three days before a referendum that could propel Quebec toward secession. In Canada's May 2, 2011 federal election, voters dealt Quebec's separatists their worst humiliation in modern memory and set off a debate about whether the mostly French-speaking province even needs a separatist movement in this globalized age. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)  

Report: Thousands fled Canada for health care in 2011

A Canadian study released Wednesday found that many provinces in our neighbor to the north have seen patients fleeing the country and opting for medical treatment in the United States.

The nonpartisan Fraser Institute reported that 46,159 Canadians sought medical treatment outside of Canada in 2011, as wait times increased 104 percent — more than double — compared with statistics from 1993.

Specialist physicians surveyed across 12 specialties and 10 provinces reported an average total wait time of 19 weeks between the time a general practitioner refers a patient and the time a specialist provides elective treatment — the longest they have ever recorded.

In 2011, Canadians enrolled in the nation’s government-dominated health service waited long periods of time for an estimated 941,321 procedures. As many as 2.8 percent of Canadians were waiting for treatment at any given time, according to the Institute.

“In some cases, these patients needed to leave Canada due to a lack of available resources or a lack of appropriate procedure/technology,” according to the Institute. “In others, their departure will have been driven by a desire to return more quickly to their lives, to seek out superior quality care, or perhaps to save their own lives or avoid the risk of disability.”

Increases in the number of patients leaving Canada for treatment were seen in seven of the ten Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Some of these patients will 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,” the report concluded.

“Others will have chosen to leave Canada in response to concerns about quality … 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 … or simply to avoid delay.”

Canada’s median wait time for treatment after consultation with a specialist also increased in 2011, from 9.3 weeks to 9.5 weeks. The Fraser Institute’s report concluded that the nation’s doctors don’t like the status quo any more than their patients..

“[P]hysicians themselves believe that Canadians wait nearly 3 weeks longer than what they consider is clinically ‘reasonable’ for elective treatment after an appointment with a specialist,” according to the report. (RELATED: 83 percent of doctors have considered quitting over Obamacare, survey finds)

Each year the Institute conducts a survey asking doctors across 12 major medical specialties in Canada what percentage of their patients have received non-emergency care outside of Canada in the previous 12 months. In 2011, approximately one percent of all Canadian patients were estimated to have received non-emergency care outside their home country.

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