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Report: Thousands fled Canadian health system in 2012

Thousands of Canadians continue to flee the country to seek medical treatment abroad, with the United States a common destination.

An estimated 42,173 Canadians left their homeland in 2012 to seek medical treatment elsewhere. This is a decrease from the 46,159 Canadians who fled the country in 2011 for medical treatment.

“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 a report by the Fraser Institute — a free-market Canadian think tank. “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.”

While the number of Canadians looking abroad for health solutions is still significant, it’s unclear whether or not the drop in the number leaving is related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S.

“While a number of external factors may have led to a decline in the number of Canadians seeking care abroad, wait times for care in Canada also improved a little in 2012 both for specialist consultations and treatment,” Nadeem Esmail, Fraser’s director of health policy studies, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

The Fraser Institute asks doctors across Canada every year about what percentage of their patients got non-emergency care outside the country in the last 12 months. Those numbers are then averaged for each medical specialty and combined with the number of actual medical treatments performed in each province.

While the total number of fleeing Canadians decreased, some provinces saw increases in the number of patients leaving Canada.

Fraser reports: “Increases between 2011 and 2012 in the estimated number of patients going outside Canada for treatment were seen in Saskatchewan (from 1,221 to 1,380), Quebec (4,600 to 6,308), New Brunswick (526 to 997), and Newfoundland & Labrador (433 to 649).”

One reason for these departures is the long waits imposed on patients by national health planners. The median wait time for treatment after consulting a specialist fell last year to 9.3 weeks. Wait times increased in seven Canadian provinces and only fell in three — Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.

The largest group of patients who fled Canada in 2012 — 4,594 — were those in the “ophthalmology” category. An ophthalmologist is a specialist for medical and surgical eye problems.

Thousands also left the country looking for “general surgery,” “orthopedic surgery” as well as for gynecological and urological treatments or procedures.

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