The number of Canadians who died while waiting for surgery or a medical diagnosis reached its highest level in five years in 2022-23, with at least 17,032 patients dying, according to SecondStreet.org.
The organization’s study focused on cases of patients who died while waiting for surgery that could have saved them – such as heart surgery – or procedures that could have improved their quality of life, such as hip replacement surgery.
The patients in question are believed to have died after waiting times ranging from a week to nearly 11 years, SecondStreet.org said, after data was obtained from the provinces through access to information requests.
The annual number of deaths on the surgical waiting list has increased by 64% in the last five years.
“We see governments thinking patients are dead. It is unfortunate,” Colin Craig, president of SecondStreet.org, responded in a press release Wednesday.
The number could also be much higher because several provinces, including Quebec, have provided only partial data. “We would like to inform you that the systems currently in use do not generate these indicators,” the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs responded to the request for information.
SecondStreet.org estimates that 31,397 patients died while waiting for surgery last year.
“At the very least, governments need to better monitor this problem and estimate the number of patients who have died because they had to wait too long for surgery,” stressed Craig.
However, the organization reminded that a patient may not be medically ready for a particular treatment at the time of death or may be awaiting another procedure not listed.
The data could also include deaths that occurred for reasons other than the patient’s health, such as a traffic accident, SecondStreet.org warned.
More money doesn’t help
According to the organization, increasing public health spending has not had a particular effect in preventing this phenomenon. That per capita spending has increased from $1,714 to $5,607 since 1992, she said.
“More money will not solve the problem. This is what governments have been trying to do for 30 years. Only real healthcare reform will alleviate patient suffering,” emphasized Craig.
He said engaging private clinics to help carry out surgeries was “a first step in the right direction”.
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