How Long Did Canadians Wait for Medical Treatment in 2020?
2020 has not been kind to many of us. Canadians endured lockdowns and shutdowns, social isolation and other unpleasant life adjustments due to COVID-19. They also endured longer medical wait times as many experienced cancellations of their scheduled elective surgeries.
According to the new report issued by Fraser Institute on December 10, 2020, it is estimated that “the total number of procedures for which people are waiting in 2020 is 1,224,198, an increase of 15% from the estimated 1,064,286 procedures in 2019.” That means that 3.2% of Canadians were waiting for their elective medically necessary treatment last year. Each province has a different percentage of their population waiting – Quebec has the lowest – 1.97% of the population and Nova Scotia is much higher – at 9.97%. Only the province of Manitoba did better in 2020 than in 2019 – their number of people waiting for medical procedures decreased.
The total waiting time between referral from a general practitioner and delivery of medically necessary elective treatment by a specialist averaged across all 12 specialities and 10 provinces surveyed, has risen from 20.9 weeks in 2019 to 22.6 in 2020. This is the longest wait time on record. It is 143% longer than in 1993, when it was just 9.3 weeks.
Each province fared differently in medical wait times, as medical care is in the hands of provincial governments. Province of Ontario had the shortest wait times overall, from GP referral to delivery of medically necessary elective treatment it takes 17.4 weeks. The Maritime provinces had more than double wait of ON – PEI at 46.5 weeks, NS at 43.8 weeks and NB at 41.3 weeks.
Each of the surveyed 12 specialities had different wait times. Plastic surgery (34.1 weeks), Ophthalmology (34.1 weeks), Neurosurgery (33.2 weeks) and Orthopedics (34.1 weeks) had the longest waits. The largest increases in waits between 2019 and 2020 occurred for neurosurgery (+7.7 weeks), ophthalmological surgery (+5.7 weeks), and plastic surgery (+5.4 weeks). There were also decreases. Wait times for patients receiving treatment in fields like orthopaedics (−5.0 weeks), and medical oncology (−0.1 week).
3 Things to Do While Waiting for Surgery
If you ever had surgery you know it can get a little stressful beforehand. Even before the pandemic, people experience an increase in stress and anxiety anticipating their procedure. Studies show that less stressed patients report better outcomes. During these uncertain times, it can become challenging dealing with all the uncertainties of life, especially if you are not well and are waiting for a medical procedure.
Everyone deserves to be seen as soon as possible. Elective surgeries only sound like a person has a choice whether to proceed or not, while in reality, what that means is that a medical procedure can be scheduled and a person can wait until the scheduled date. However, we also know that waiting creates unneeded stress and anxiety potentially leading to worse outcomes.
Here are some things to consider while waiting:
- Stay in touch with your doctor, physiotherapists or chiropractor. Ask them what you can do while waiting. Depending on your mobility, it may still be possible to go for a walk or do some exercises at home. If the pain becomes unbearable you doctor may recommend another pain management plan. Most doctors can provide phone consultation, and some physiotherapist and chiropractors can help by phone or online instructions on how to exercise safely.
- Try to stay physically active. Going for a walk is a great stress reducer. If able, sign up for online yoga classes – some offer chair classes from the comfort of your own home. Some services like Amazon Prime offer free classes as part of your subscription.
- Research your private options and get your medical records reviewed. This can provide you with actionable items and you are not obligated to go the private route if your surgery is rescheduled locally in a timely manner.
5 Ways to Stay Active in Winter During the Pandemic
We all know that winter brings shorter days, lack of motivation and sunlight to go outside and, in general, hibernation moods. If that was not enough, we are in the middle of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. In many parts of Canada going to a workout facility may be out of question and winter in Canada, well, it can be limiting for outdoor activities.
It is, however, very important to stay active. Our mental and physical health are very closely intertwined. A famous Latin expression “Mens sana in corpore sano” – a healthy body can sustain a healthy mind – echoes this notion. Among many benefits of aerobic activity is that it also relieves stress and anxiety by releasing the feel-good hormones during the exercise.
Below are 5 tips to get moving in winter
- Bring your workouts indoor – get a virtual exercise membership. If your resources allow, set up a small area in your home where you can practice yoga, place a treadmill or a spin bike. Youtube offers a variety of free workouts such as spin and yoga.
- Join your kids or grandkids on their outdoor play. Some fresh air and moving around is sure to follow!
- Dress according to the weather and go outside – walk your dogs, have a look around your neighbourhood, observe winter changes at a local park.
- Get a group of friends to commit to a winter exercise routine and motivate each other to stay on track.
- Embrace the winter! It gives us an opportunity to ski, snowboard, skate, snowshoe, walk (yes, it is still an exercise in winter!) Pick a winter sport you might enjoy and give it a try!